Monthly Archives: December 2010

Happy New Year!

The end of a year and the end of the first decade of the 21st Century! All endings mean beginnings are at hand.

I tend to get a little philosophical on December 31st… so here you have some of my thoughts.  In no way do I presume to have any original ones… this is just a collection of ramblings. Why  does this read like the Alphabet? Well…  I’ve received lots of comments about the second section of my book MAGIC MADE IN MEXICO. It follows the same format and readers seem to like it… so, why not?

I wish you all a very Happy and Prosperous New Year!




A is for AGE: Many of us do not like to see it creeping up but I agree with Mark Twain who said,” Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.”

B is for BALANCE: This is a constant challenge but one worth the effort because on the days when we strike it… life is good.

C is for CARLOS: My wonderful creative son…                                                                                                                                                  

D is for DIET: Hopefully this D word and I will be able to stick together a bit more!

E is for EXERCISE: What I said about D is applicable to E too!

F is for FAMILY & FRIENDS: It’s nice if the first is our greatest treasure but if not, hopefully the second fills the gap. Many say, “My friends are the family I have chosen.”

G is for GENEROSITY: The more you give, the more you get back…

H is for HAPPINESS: We search the planet for this only to find it extremely close by… inside each one of us.

I is for INSIGHT: I love this…Paul Gauguin said, “I shut my eyes in order to see.”

J is for JORGE: My husband who is “mi amor, mi cómplice en todo”…

K is for KNOWLEDGE: The pursuit of this gives purpose to life. We never stop learning

L is for LOVE: Nowhere have I seen a better definition of “the greatest virtue” than in:1 Corinthians 13.                                       “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”

M is for MAGGIE: The daughter I am blessed with…                                                                                                                                 

N is for NICE: An old fashioned concept? Maybe… but I think life’s easier on everyone when we try to be…

O is for OPEN: Open-minded, open-spirited… almost all openness is a good thing

P is for POOL: As in swimming pool… this is one of my greatest pleasures

Q is for QUALITY OF LIFE: This what we all want… recognizing when we have it is the crux of the matter.

R is for RETIREMENT: Not what it once was, is it? This time in life is a gift. It gives us the opportunity to do what we couldn’t do when we were too busy working!

S is for SECURITY: A much sought after state… again, much of this is in our minds.  I read this on the Ernest Gaines Quotation site, “Why is it that, as a culture, we are more comfortable seeing two men holding guns than holding hands?

T is for TIME: What we all want more of… sigh…

U is for USEFUL:  To feel we are useful is one of life’s most basic requirements.

V is for VERBS: As a writer I’d like to know approximately how many exist in the English language. I’ve looked all over the Net and not found the answer… can you?

W is for WEDDINGS: There will be TWO in our family this year!

X is for XEROX: Not many other words begin with this letter. And I am, supremely grateful for this x-cellent technology… I well remember when it didn’t exist.

Y is for YUCATAN: Not a plethora of words start with Y either, but I give thanks every day, because the name of the place where I live is as unique as its first letter.

Z is for ZOO: Peter De Vries said, “Life is a zoo in the jungle.” Think about it…

  • Many of the quotes I used in this posting are from  – a great resource, I think


Filed under Family and Friends, Vida Latina, Writing

Kyle and the Christmas Cactus

During the Holiday season, we get lots of notes from far-away friends and family. All are welcome and a few are truly special. On December 24th, I received such a greeting from Deanna , a treasured friend I met through a Life-writing workshop. Reading what she sent to me, you’ll not only be touched by her great writing but also by her caring spirit.

Please pass this post around to those you know… Wouldn’t it be wonderful if someone reads it and puts “Kyle” and Deanna in touch with each other?

Kyle and the Christmas Cactus

Dear Kyle,

The “Christmas School Holidays” are upon us, once again, and my thoughts return to you each year at this time.

In 1991, I left the local school community, that I had loved and been a part of for eleven years, and drove an hour away to join a fledgling staff in a smaller lakeside community. The school was comprised of portables while we waited for the new school to be completed. Our Principal was a bright, warm-hearted, dedicated woman who had chosen a staff made up of vibrant, adventurous young teachers and a few experienced, near-retirement souls like myself. Her enthusiasm was tempered daily with the message that the students were always our priority and that their learning environment be a balance of educational and life skills.

You came into my life in the September of 1992, a wee boy going on five. You were in the middle of a blended family with older, protective siblings and younger ones who, as might be said, nudged you “out of the nest”, too soon.

There were the days you climbed the stairs into the Senior Kindergarten portable, needing a knee to sit on and a welcome hug before venturing into the day’s activities. Then, there were those many times when a surly little fellow stomped into class, unwilling to join the morning circle until you had spent some moments alone under the teacher’s desk or by the book shelf until you felt ready to tackle the new sound or song.

Fall disappeared and the Christmas break was fast approaching. Holiday songs and poems were learned, crafts and cards for parents were made and the Nativity play and concert,completed. On that last day of school before the holidays, you walked in with a plant that so represented you. It was a tiny Christmas Cactus, needing only love, time and attention to help it to grow and to bloom. I wrapped it carefully against the cold, took it home and told my four children that it was my ‘bestest present”.

You and your family moved out of the area later on in the next year and I, not knowing where you went, prayed that your new Teacher would see the real you and your potential.

I willed that Christmas Cactus to survive!  I watched it, watered it and year after year, moving it from home to home, waited for a bloom that, somehow, would assure me that you, too, were coming along as I constantly wished for you.

Last year, Kyle, there was ONE beautiful flower on that wee plant that keeps doing its best and I was thrilled. Did that mean that you, also, were not only surviving but thriving?

Kyle, you are twenty-three now and I hold you in my heart and wish you well. This year, eighteen years later, is definitely the “bestest” year yet. There are THIRTEEN blooms on “our” Christmas Cactus!!

Wherever you are Kyle, Happy New Year!

Deanna, Oakville, ON

Image credit for Christmas cactus :


Filed under Family and Friends, Writing

Hunting and Gathering

Monday, I spent the day with Ada. She is my daughter’s future mother-in-law and the two of us will be seeing lots of one another throughout the coming months… we’ve got a wedding to get ready for!

Our “to-do” list involved several errands concerning the nuptial Mass at the hacienda where the reception will be held…. And then we headed off in search of bridesmaid dress material. No… we have not been given the assignment of choosing the actual fabric! Our job is that of hunter-gatherers (we hunt out and gather together all the samples needed by the bride)  Actually we did very well – in a space of just two hours, we hunted through five stores and gathered together numerous swatches in the requisite midnight / safire blue.

Very pleased at having successfully completed our first mission, we decided lunch was in order. I had been to a new restaurant the week before and I figured Ada would also enjoy it.

Pimienta”, located on Calle 60 Norte (close to the stadium) opened its doors four months ago and from day one, it has been successful with Merida’s food enthusiasts. Without being stuffy, the décor is understated and attractive. I don’t usually write about restaurants I visit but this one deserves a special citation.

“Shall we have a glass of wine?” I inquired of Ada. She nodded her head. The wait staff at Pimienta is well informed about their wines and the menu. Our server suggested a Trivento Pinot Noir to accompany the lasagna we planned to eat. I actually ended up having a different dish and a Chardonnay would have been a more appropriate choice, but I enjoy Pinot Noir so no issues.

The Mediterranean inspired dishes are all beautifully prepared and presented. Quite a few of the other tables were occupied by friends and acquaintances and I noticed most of them also ordered pasta. In fact I changed my lasagna order when I saw a plate of Alfredo pasta with shrimp being served to another customer. Not the best thing for a future mother-of-the-bride who needs to whittle inches off the waistline… but January cometh!

We chatted about the wedding and agreed that there will be many more hunter-gatherer forays… Fine by us! We’ll have more chances to come back to Pimienta.

As most of you know, pimienta is the Spanish word for pepper.

On I read the following quotation:

“Epithets, like pepper, give zest to what you write

And if you strew them sparsely, they whet the appetite.”

 “Pimienta” has certainly whetted our appetite and enhanced the excitement of preparing for the BIG event.



Filed under Family and Friends

Christmas in Merida

The past three days have been a whirlwind of great parties with family and friends…  of course we’ve engaged in MUCH eating and drinking, singing and dancing and lots of good talks and reminiscing.  From among the gifts under the tree, I unwrapped a new charger for my camera battery so we’re back in business with the photography. My settings are off though and so the shots I’ll post today are kind of out-of-focus. Nonetheless, you’ll get the idea of how we celebrated Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day in Merida.   

I spent the 24th of December in the kitchen with Jorge, Maggie and Estela… we chopped, sliced, diced, stuffed, grilled, and baked the food that would be the following day’s feast… A good clean-up followed and then Jorge and I began our three day round of socializing… Leslie and Richard’s party was our first stop and we got to “enjoy a cup of cheer” with lots of our good friends. Then it was on to my brother and sister-in-law’s home for the traditional family get together









  Jorge and I with his mom on Christmas Eve. Doña Bertha is now 93…

Hobbes the Christmas kitty kept hoping he’d get another chance to score some of the bird! Not likely!

Christmas morning, we were pretty excited as we opened our gifts








We had another party invitation during the day but we had to finish getting ready for the 30 guests we had at home later in the evening. Everyone had their fill of “turkey and all the trimmings”     






  This morning the piper had to be paid… That’s Jorge dealing with the dishes

(I was in the living room straightening up…)


 But we didn’t have to spend too long before we were out the door again!

 To Progreso, we sped to spend Boxing Day with our Canadian buddies, Reg   &  Larry, Joanne & Chuck and Cindy & Dan. Another fun afternoon… Not  a bad life , eh?                            





Filed under Family and Friends

Two Nights Before Christmas

TWO NIGHTS BEFORE CHRISTMAS                                         

Adapted by Joanna…

‘Twas two nights before Christmas, and here at our house

Our cat saw a bigger prize than a mouse.

Hobbes smelled something avian, delectable and rare

 It seemed to emanate from right over there!

No one was around but they weren’t in their beds,

The “to do” list, still spun in their heads.

At any moment, disaster could befall

But he felt that meat was worth risking it all,

And at that very moment, there arose such a clatter,

All ran to the kitchen, to see what was the matter.

Away to the corner Hobbes flew like a flash,

And ran through the cat door with his yummy stash.

The turkey was not on the table – oh no!

 It now laid in a heap, on the floor below.

How did this happen? It was immediately clear –  

For paw prints on the floor did obviously appear.

That twelve year old cat, still lively and quick,

Had brazenly jumped up and taken his pick

Of the succulent pieces we might have ate.

Maggie turned and shouted, “He’s broken the plate!”

I want to resolve this situation

But turkey with china shards, is beyond salvation!

Into the garbage can behind the wall!

I throw away! throw away! throw away all!”

As tempers tend to do, mine did fly,

Out of its confines and up into the sky.

Bad words and curses towards that cat flew,

In a fit of anger I even threw my shoe!

And then, in a twinkling, I heard at the door

Hobbes calling me with a lion-like roar.

As I drew in my head, and was turning around,

 In came that cheeky cat with a bound.

Turkey grease on his fur, from his head to his tail…

That silly kitty thought justice would not prevail!

I could see the evidence when he rolled on his back,

His fat belly protruded like a big, full sack.

His eyes — how they twinkled! His purring seemed merry!

I was not much amused. Well… not very!

His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,

And evidence on his whiskers led me to know;

Any trace of doubt had disappeared for good,

“Oh I could strangle you – I really could!”

But the look on his face and his little round belly,

Turned my vengeance to a big bowl of jelly.

So contented and plump, like a fat Christmas elf,

And I laughed as I watched him, in spite of myself;

A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,

Soon gave me to know we’d all been led…

To the magic of Christmas, when old rules don’t apply

When forgiveness trumps anger… I said with a sigh,

“Oh Hobbes you’re a thief,

But you’ve restored my once-lost belief.

Yes, we can find humor, no matter what happens,

And we must not let adversity dampen

Our love, our peace and our joy and delight.”

Hobbes closed his green eyes and he rolled up tight,

“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night.” 


Filed under Family and Friends

Ask and you will receive!

In yesterday’s entry, I mentioned that I prepared a big batch of Bolognese sauce. One of my frequent readers says he’s waiting for the recipe. So, ask and you will receive!

I truly enjoy cooking and in fact, this sauce is one I am often asked to make. The recipe is for 1 kilo of meat. It will serve between 10 and 15 people depending on how big the portions are.  If you need more, double, triple, or whatever!  I hope you’ll enjoy it with people you love…



 Joanna’s Spaghetti Sauce

  • This isn’t actually the original Bolognese recipe but it works for us!
  • Before starting to cook… put on some nice Italian music (or ask the local musicians to play a tune…)


½ kilo ground pork

½ kilo ground beef

2 Italian sausages (cut in pieces)                                                                                    

100 g. bacon (diced)

 Misc. Ingredients:     

¼ cup olive oil

Salt and pepper

¾ cup red wine

1 4-cup can of tomato sauce

1 small can of tomato paste                                                                                                                                                                 



5 cloves of garlic 


I large white onion                                                                                                                                                                                              

1 large green pepper

10 Roma tomatoes


20 mushrooms

 Measure out:

1 T. chicken consommé powder (Maggi)

1 tsp dried fennel seed

½ tsp. pepper

1 T dried basil

1 T dried oregano

1 T dried rosemary

2 T. sugar 


Sauté the garlic in the olive oil. When it’s golden-colored (be careful not to let it burn), remove the cloves from the oil and set to one side.

Add the meats and brown for ten minutes, breaking up any really large chunks.

Add the chopped vegetables, one by one (continue cooking for 5 min.)

Add the spices

Add the tomato puree and sauce

Add the wine.

 Simmer for 1 – 2 hours.

  • I always make the sauce at least a day before we plan on eating it. This gives the flavors a chance to mature.
  • Serve the sauce over spaghetti and accompany with a green salad, garlic bread and a full-bodied red wine
  • Have some tropical fruit ice cream (mango, lemon, coconut or …) for dessert.

 Bonus Question: Do you know who the two sculptures depict?

 Photo credit: (Spaghetti plate) The rest are from our Italy trip a few years ago 


Filed under Family and Friends

Marathons, Bolognese, Baking and Ballet

I like to begin my day with 2 – 3 hours of writing. I wake up early anyway, and find the early dawn is my most productive time.  But today, my son Carlos had plans to run a marathon and dropped in on his way to the park. He ate a banana, I gave him a big hug and he was off to the races… finishing well by the way!

A creative frame of mind didn’t seem to be forthcoming, so I padded into the kitchen. Over the Christmas holidays, we often have drop-in company and so it’s a good idea to have easy-to-thaw meals ready and waiting. In our household that means Bolognese sauce. Jorge had already done a lot of the chop-chop and by 9 am, I’d filled six freezer storage bags with the rich, red spaghetti-topper. I’ve got garlic bread packed away and we always have lots of greens on hand…

After coffee in our garden Jorge and I carried out our weekly plant patrol. Many of the orchids have new bars with buds; the yellow, red and salmon-colored hibiscus are all flowering and the plant in the corner is a blaze of blooms the color of the bus in the movie, “Pricilla – Queen of the Desert.”   

Just as we finished a huge round of dishes, our daughter Maggie and her fiancé Ricardo arrived with everything we needed for “Day One of the Big Holiday Bake-off.” Sweets are another thing we like to have on hand during this season. Mags and I make a good team… the pastry for the Christmas pies, lemon cupcakes, butter tarts and shortbread all came out well. Lots more dishes to wash…

A swim (yes, the water was cold at first but lovely once we got used to it)… some lunch (spaghetti of course!)… more dishes… followed by a languid siesta … I tell you, life is NOT bad!

The grand finale came in the evening. “The Nutcracker”, performed at the Teatro Armando Manzanero  by the Socorro Cerón Dance School provided the perfect end to our perfectly eclectic Sunday.

Photo credit:


Filed under Family and Friends, Vida Latina