Category Archives: Family and Friends

Special occasions and remembrances

The Wall

Our  Memory Wall

In our world there are many famous walls: the Vietnam Memorial Wall, The Great Wall of China, and the Walls of Jericho. Some walls are notorious like the former Berlin Wall and the current Wall along the México-USA Border. Ancient civilizations and great manors built walls around themselves to keep invaders out. Prisons have walls to keep people in…

In our house we have lots of walls: the outside one with purple bougainvillea cascading over the top and of course the ones that hold up our roof! But in the guest room we have a Memory Wall.

The Memory Wall is just what its name implies. There are photographs, small souvenirs, bits of art… We often change the pictures or add new ones. Yesterday I spent several hours doing just that.

Some of the wedding pictures have been up for quite a while; we’ll            celebrate our 35th anniversary very soon. And some aren’t even a year old; both our children were married in 2011.

There are little mementoes of trips…

And some of the memories have been given to us by our friends

The oldest photo is of my paternal grandmother, taken in 1917

My parents are both remembered, as are Jorge’s… And we have photos of uncles and aunts like Gisele who will    turn 100 this year… Cousins and old friends…And presiding at center stage is a large reproduction of the Virgen de Guadalupe.

When we have overnight guests, they always say they enjoyed looking at everything on our wall. Do you have a Memory Wall?

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What kind of bread?

Usually culinary efforts that make it into the public eye are perfect or darn near so. Today I am going to give you a wonderful recipe for _ _ _ _ bread, but believe me, the results were not perfect.

My sister Barb, who is a chef gave me her “fail proof” formula, and my daughter Maggie, a young but talented baker was on hand to share the experience.

_ _ _ _ Bread

Attach the bread hook to your mixer, put the bowl in place and add 2 cups of luke warm water. Sprinkle 1 Tbsp. of active dry yeast on top and let it stand for 10 minutes.

(This was easy…)

Add ¼ cup of olive oil, ½ Tbsp. of salt and 4 cups of flour.  Turn on the mixer and let it run until the mixture starts sticking to the side of the bowl.

(Boy did it ever stick!)

Then add more flour, 1 Tbsp. at a time, until the mixture comes away from the sides.

(We ended up using an additional cup of flour)

Continue to let the dough kneed for 8 minutes.

(I don’t know what you do if you don’t have a strong mixer)

Remove the bread hook, cover the bowl of dough with plastic wrap and let it rise for 1 hour.

(At this point we took Nacho (Maggie’s dog) for a walk)

Now get the oven really hot (450 F) and place the rack on the lowest position.  Place a baking sheet on the rack to get it hot before you put the breads on it..

Shape the  breads.  Leave them on the counter for 10 minutes. Roll out as thin as possible, 6 – 8 inches in diameter and place them on the hot baking sheet. Bake for just 3 minutes

(Now… that doesn’t sound too hard does it? The problem was that our dough came out too sticky. We had to coat our hands in flour to even get “blobs.” No way could you roll them out, so we stretched them out as best we could. We then flopped the oddly-shaped breads onto to hot baking sheet… I managed to burn my arm a couple of times)

Repeat until all are baked. They will puff up

(Puff up? Ha, ha, ha…)

What kind of bread were we trying to make? Well, pita of course

 (Can’t you tell?)

Now, when you attempt this at home, let me know if you got the “Shape the breads” part a little better than we did

Nacho liked them!

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A pipe organ… Where?

Through the years I’ve met a few people who have accomplished singular, extraordinary feats. For example, one couple I know bicycled from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego. But until a few weeks ago, I had never met anyone who did what Jim Smiley did…

At the age of 5, he announced to his parents that he wanted to play the pipe organ. They smiled at his childish ambition but he insisted… “But you’re not big enough to reach the floor pedals,” they reasoned, “why don’t you learn to play piano?” He did learn to play piano and he pursued his dream to play the pipe organ.

During his career in vintage costume design, Jim continued his interest in the organ but had little time to play. Upon retirement, he moved to Mérida and purchased a high-ceilinged residence – the perfect home  for a pipe organ!

On the Internet, he located one for sale, and traveled to Rome, NY where it languished, not played in more than 30 years. Nonetheless, it was in good condition, and Jim acquired the “Hinners & Albertsen” 1899 pipe organ. One problem: it was in New York and he wanted it for his home in Mérida.

Jim had no experience with organ building, but with the help of Internet forums for organ builders and organists he managed to dismantle, pack, ship and reassemble it in Mérida.

Last night Jim invited a group of 12 to meet his friend David McIntosh, a virtuoso organist.

David constantly tours and en route to a concert in Mexico City, he agreed to give a recital on the century-old pipe organ installed in Jim’s living room.

David McIntosh is Australian born, but he lives in Amsterdam… and as coincidence would have it… he has a home just one canal away from my 100 year-old aunt. My husband Jorge, David and I enjoyed talking about the cosmopolitan Dutch city, the people and places we enjoy there.

David played a selection 17th and 18th century pieces. When I closed my eyes, the music transported me to the nave of a European baroque cathedral. It was magnificent to see and hear such a unique performance.

David is actually “Dr. David;” he  has another career as a pediatrician – infectious diseases specialist and vaccinologist, and has received a medal and citation from the Queen of England for his service to Medicine and Music.  As well he is the founder and artistic director of the “GlebeMusic Festival”, now in its 23rd year.

Jim later talked about Oaxaca. He told us that this Mexican state has the largest collection of  baroque period pipe organs. Every two years he attends the “Oaxaca Organ Festival.” The next one will be in 2014.

He also told me that he is very willing to allow musicians to play and practice on the organ. If anyone reading this piece would like the opportunity, you can contact Jim through me. Just send an email: writingfrommerida@gmail.com

David and Jim entertained us further with their stories about the famous pipe organs of the world like the grand Parisian 8,000 pipe organ in Notre Dame Cathedral.

After the recital, we enjoyed a light dinner. The serviettes had musical notes printed on them; Jim picked one up and said, “Oh this is Chopin!”

I had to pinch myself … how often does one have the chance to hear a pipe organ played by a world class musician in a private home? The evening was indeed magical. Thank you David and Jim for including us.

  David McIntosh

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