Tag Archives: barra de navidad

Living On Mexico Time

4 Feb

Emile and I were lucky to have had the chance to spend almost two weeks in Barra de Navidad, Mexico and have just recently returned from that trip.  It was a wonderfully relaxing time for both of  us – we enjoyed long walks, swimming in a warm ocean, catching up with old friends, and making new ones.

This is a blog about gratitude and so I thought I would share photos of a few of the reasons I have to be grateful.

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Having the chance to see cool and unusual creatures!

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Spending time with dear friends.

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Being able to bring supplies to the local school.

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Watching as our favorite beach was undergoing much needed restoration.

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and then thanking the backhoe operator for his hard work with a Coconut Cream Pie!

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Finding our old friend, Jose of the Malecon, at his new workplace!

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Playing Scrabble or Bananas with Emile almost daily!

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Delivering one last Chocolate Cream Pie for our “hostess” Cynthia on the day we left.

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And lastly, having a warm safe place to come home to.  Many thanks to the good neighbors that watched over our home and our fluffy kitty while we were away.  We’re both so grateful that we were able to take some time to unwind… and very thankful to have been missed while we were gone. We’re lucky ducks to be sure.

As we sat in the airport in Los Angelos awaiting our flight, I was texting with my son, Coco, and in trying to explain the affinity I feel for Mexico  (the people, the weather, the food, and the bright colors everywhere), I said, “I think I was Mexican in a past life” and he wrote back, “Mom, I think you’re still Mexican!”   You know, he just might be right.

A wise man travels to discover himself.  James Russell Lowell

Take vacations… go as many places as you can.  You can always make money; you can’t always make memories.  Unknown

 

 

A Wonderful Life for Someone else may be lacking one ingredient: You

26 Jan

It's a Wonderful Life

The movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life,” centers around the life of George Bailey, a man with big dreams who ends up living his life humbly and honorably in the small town where he grew up.  At one point in the film, George contemplates suicide because he is in a desperate financial situation and he has been led to believe that he is worth more dead than alive (via his insurance policy). Fortunately, George is helped to see the true value of his life (the good he’s done, the friends he’s made, the family he is a part of) byway of Clarence, an angel who wants to earn his wings.  In the final scene we witness George Bailey surrounded by his family, friends, and neighbors. They have all come because they heard that he was in trouble and they wanted to help. As George is letting this all sink in, his brother, Harry, raises a glass to toast him saying, “To my big brother, George, the richest man in town.”

The first time I saw that film, I was barely out of my teens.  My Mom had suggested I watch it as it was the late night movie that day and I must have looked a bit sad coming home from a date.  The movie grabbed my from the start and I watched transfixed til the end and hoped that my sobs were not loud enough to wake the rest of the family.  Clearly, the film had made an impact.

Why do I tell this story?  I suppose it is because I am often reminded that it is the little things that we do that really matter the most… the friendships we make, the kindness we offer, the joy that comes from shared experiences… even when things don’t go as planned.  In fact, often those times are the most memorable.

For the past week, Emile and I have been in Mexico and a few days ago we were able to meet up with old friends.  They drove five hours to spend time with us (okay, they were also going to the beach).  Neither of us is fluent in the other’s language… my Spanish is fair at best) but we find ways to communicate.  We spent two days together discovering new beaches: Boca de Iguanas (the sign near the bay there says “No Swimming: Crocodiles”), Tenicatita (no amenities and a military presence made this beach unappealing), before settling at Melaque for swimming, working a jigsaw puzzle, and sipping Modelos.

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Karen and Rosalba;  David, Miriam, Leslie, Rosalba with me and Emile

The day our friends arrived, I made a coconut cream pie to share with them and one of our favorite restaurateurs. Unfortunately, that taco stand was closed that day and so we found another taqueria and made new friends there.  I gave the pie to our waiter and asked him to please keep it cold until we’d eaten.  After our dinner, I went to retrieve it and when he opened th fridge we saw the pie tilted on its side oozing out of the pie tin.  The worried look on his face was instantly removed when I laughed and told him that it was okay… it was after all, just a pie!  As it was a few days before David’s birthday, we sang to him and each enjoyed a bit of mushy pie.  Life is good!

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After David and his family left, we returned to our usual routine… walking the beach… and for me, that also means searching for shells.  As we were standing by a fisherman, I found a particularly strange one and showed it to him explaining that I loved the surprises that come with each wave.  He looked at the shell and said what I had was a “regala de la mar” using the same words as the title of Anne Morrow Lindbergh‘s book, Gift from the Sea.  My thoughts exactly!

Later in the day, we sat under an umbrella and the waves kept bringing up bits of plants.  The tiny older woman who had rented us a table looked so small compared to the task she faced at cleaning the beach (read: impossible), and so for a little while I raked for her. You can imagine the looks I received from locals and tourists alike… but I just needed to do something!  Afterwards, the old woman and I laughed at the never-ending process and shared a moment of understanding. Pretty amazing how easy it is to do that if you give it a shot.

That evening we found our way to our first taqueria bearing a Chocolate Cream Pie.  I’d been told the day before by Mario, our young waiter, that the reason they were closed was so that the whole family could celebrate his 13th birthday. That must have made him feel pretty special!  And I wanted to honor him as well… and what else would I give him but a pie?

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As I close, I want to leave you with this thought: we really never know what another person is going through… and our words and actions may be the one thing that makes or breaks their day. I’m sure it wouldn’t take long to think of a situation in your world needing help.  Maybe you can’t fix it… but it is likely can make a small difference. We simply can’t rely on angels like Clarence to do it for us… sometimes, it is up to us.

Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them humanity cannot survive. Dalai Lama

Mexico, our Friends, and a Pie

3 May

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The Chocolate Cream Pie that we shared in Barra de Navidad

As you know, we’ve been in Mexico for a short vacation.  Although it has only been nine days since we arrived, much has happened in that time.   One of the most remarkable things is that we have been able to remain in contact with our family back home which has been critical as my Dad has been in the hospital for our entire stay.  Two days ago my Dad was finally able to have surgery on his (almost completely blocked) carotid artery and being able to be in contact via Skype has been a great blessing… and to know that Dad is now on the other side of surgery (and has even been able to complain a bit!) is absolutely delightful!

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Carolina, Miriam, Rosalba, and David

One of the best parts of our visit was the time we spent with our friends from Mexico, David and Rosalba.  They drove from their home near Guadalajara (about four hours away) to spend a few days vacationing with us.  With them came their daughter Miriam and her best friend, Caro – two beautiful young ladies who will celebrate their quinceneras later this year.  Together we shared long walks on the beach, lots of sunshine, laughter, tacos, and a few mango margaritas (well, the adults did anyway).  It always amazes me is that we are able to communicate so well even though we speak different languages.  Yes, it’s true I know some Spanish, but my language skills are pretty rusty.   And yet here we are with just the simple desire to be together, and somehow we figure it out.   Would that all the world’s differences could be solved as easily!

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Pretty shells and sea glass from our walks on the beach

Another highlight came when we shared tacos one night at a little place near the center of town called “Rinconcita Mexicana” (little Mexican corner).  We ate at this place last year (in February) with David and Rosalba.  At that time I was still immersed in my “year of pies” and had brought a coconut cream pie to share with David and Rosalba and we wound up leaving half a pie as part of our gratuity.  This year when we showed up, the waiter, Ricardo, saw us and after a moment asked, “Do I know you?”  I shook my head no, but then Emile smiled and said, “yes” and Ricardo pulled Emile’s business card out of his wallet!  He commented on the pie from last year (delicioso!) and I was completely stunned!  It had been more than 14 months and we had made a lasting impression with half a pie!

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As we left to go home, I jokingly asked Ricardo if we could get a reservation for the following night.  He asked what time and said, “of course.”   The next day, I made a chocolate cream pie to commemorate our last night with David and Rosalba and the girls.  We arrived at the “restaurant” and found an empty table and sat down.  Then Rosalba pointed out that our table from the night before had a notice posted.  It said “Reservado” – and Ricardo’s wife Nancy told us that they had saved the table for us!  I felt honored to have earned a place at their table and, of course, we shared our pie with them once again.

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The Rinconcito Mexicana

Today we have one last day to walk the beach and to soak up the flavors of this colorful land.  We will miss it so much when it is time to go, but feel certain that a piece of our hearts will remain here until we are able to return.

The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched.  They must be felt with the heart.  Helen Keller

A Mexican Vacation… and a Coconut Cream Pie

27 Apr

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In January my husband and I planned a trip to Mexico.  We used a companion fare ticket from Alaska Airlines and booked a trip to Barra de Navidad that would begin on April 24.  Once the plans were made, life went back to normal… until my Dad’s stroke.  Then the trip that we planned seemed unlikely… and I felt guilty for even wanting to go.

As the date to leave drew near, I spent many hours discussing insurance, surgery dates, payments for care, and myriad other details.   Once that was done I had to believe that my Dad was in good hands and that my husband and I could take a much-needed break.  We left early Wednesday morning and arrived about seven hours later in Manzanillo, Mexico.  A friend of a friend agreed to pick us up at the airport and he drove us to Barra.  We thanked him and gave him a bottle of Oregon wine for his troubles.

After a short rest, we walked down to the beach and enjoyed a beautiful sunset.  Then we bought tamales from a street vendor and ate them while sipping cold Pacifico beer.  That night we went to bed tired but happy.

The next morning I checked email (yes we are tied to our computers) and saw a message from my Dad’s case manager: Dad was taken back to the hospital. My first thoughts are unprintable but I will say, “Thank goodness for Skype!”  Immediately I called my sister and after a while we figured out that Dad had several things going on: dehydration, dizziness, and low levels of sodium.   Dad’s been in the hospital for three days now and I think that he is in the safest place he could be and the nurses at JFK have been amazingly kind and helpful dealing with his family that is so far away.

Since Dad was being well-cared for and I could not do anything for him I did what I do when I need to feel in control: I baked a pie.  This year in our little rental apartment we have a two-burner stove top and a toaster oven.  First I formed a graham cracker crust (with crumbs that I brought from home) and baked it in the little oven until it was lightly browned.  Next I mixed milk, sugar, eggs, and coconut for the filling and poured it into the crust.  We then went out in search of whipping cream to top it off but could not find any for sale in this little town so I had to settle for toasting coconut for the topping.

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Even without whipped cream I thought it turned out nicely… but who would get this lovely pie?  I thought of the people that we had come in contact with and settled on a young man who works in a shop that sells beautifully hand-woven works of art.  We asked him about the wall hangings and he told us that some of them had taken months to make.  He explained that many of those hanging had been made by other workers but that he also could weave and he first began learning to weave ten years before.

Maybe I felt a connection to that young man because I too learned my craft when I was young.  Whatever the reason, last night Emile and I walked back to the shop and brought a pie to that young man.   He was there with his girlfriend and as I gave him the pie I tried to explain in my best Spanish that the pie was a gift – to honor the beautiful pieces that he had created.   I hope that he continues to pursue his art throughout his lifetime for I believe it can make all the difference in the world.

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“If you ask me what I came to do in this world, I, an artist, will answer you: I am here to live out loud.”  
Émile Zola

 

Day 308: Doreen

8 Feb

Asparagus, Red Pepper, and Cheddar Quiche

Coming home from a vacation is often a bit challenging.  There is the dirty laundry to wash, there’s sand in your shoes, and you might have a bit of jet lag to deal with.   However, what I felt today after returning from Barra de Navidad was challenging in a different way.  I wandered through my house seeing abundance everywhere , yet where I had been, abundance was in short supply.  As I took Sofus, my daughter’s dog, for a walk, I could not help but feel a bit overwhelmed at the injustice of it all.

All these hours later, I have yet to reconcile the disparity between the two.  However, I think at the very least it is important to recognize the abundance and beauty in our midst, for too often we take it for granted.  Perhaps we all need to spend some time living in poverty before we can really appreciate our many blessings.

My friend Leslie helped me out today by suggesting that I take time to assimilate back into my “normal” life and I really appreciated that advice.  It was important to honor the break that we had from our routine and to acknowledge how lucky we were to be able to afford that luxury.  Of course that would involve giving thanks… and the way I do that is with a pie.

Fortunately I had some key ingredients on hand to make a savory pie – fresh asparagus, cream, eggs, and roasted peppers.  As I prepared the quiche, I let my mind wander until it settled on a fitting recipient – and today that person was Doreen.  She is the Alumni Director at Southern Oregon University and has served in that position for about five years.

When Doreen came on board, she brought with her a wealth of experience and a seemingly endless supply of energy.  She works tirelessly to build lasting relationships for the university and to orchestrate fabulous events throughout the year.  At one time I thought I wanted to have her position, but I am very grateful that Doreen was the person selected.   Like a trained dancer, she makes her work seem easy, but I know better. Doreen truly deserves to be recognized for her outstanding efforts.

We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures.  ~Thornton Wilder

Day 306: Water Taxi Drivers

6 Feb

Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie

Today was our last full day in Mexico and we wanted to make the most of it… and for me, that means spending time on the beach.  As the weather was a bit overcast, instead of playing in the ocean, we decided to walk along the beach to Melaque.  It is a nice walk albeit a bit difficult as there is a slope to the sand and it seems that you are walking a bit lopsided most of the way.  Nonetheless, it was delightful.

When we arrived in Melaque, my husband chose to explore a bit more of the beach while I sat and watched the pelicans and the frigatebirds.  The area was chock full of them and I was mesmerized by the sight of the pelicans as they dove into the water, because it seemed that each time one bird dove, four or five others would follow right after in the same place.  It was quite the spectacle!

After a brief repast at one of the restaurants on the beach we decided to walk “home” as well.  By the time we arrived, we were hot and tired and hungry!  But before we could eat I needed to deliver a pie!  We quickly headed to the malecon (the harbor wall) and looked for the vendors that are always there.  However by the time we got there this evening, they had all gone home.

As I wondered who I might gift with a pie I saw a young woman who was busy working at the water taxi desk.  The water taxis take passengers back and forth across the lagoon between Barra de Navidad and the Isla de Navidad.  We have been on the water taxi many times this week and really appreciate the quick and convenient service they offer.

As I approached the young woman,  I could tell that she was apprehensive.  I explained that I was a baker and that I have been making pies every day for over 300 days and giving them away.  Then I asked if there were many taxi drivers still out on their boats and she said yes.  I then set the pie on her desk and asked if she would please share it with them when they came back to the dock.  Still apprehensive, she asked if I was selling the pie.  No, I explained, it is a gift… to show gratitude to God, the universe, etc.  In Spanish she said this type of thing was, “muy rara.”  Perhaps she is right… but maybe someday that will change.  Here’s hoping!

What we are is God’s gift to us. What we become is our gift to God.
 Eleanor Powell

Day 304: David, Rosalba,and Family

4 Feb

Rosalba and David

We met David and his family many years ago when he worked with us as a line cook.  If you know anything about working in a kitchen you’ll know what I mean when I say that one of the reasons that we loved having David on our team was because he was not easily upset.  The heat of the kitchen can do crazy things to a person but somehow David’s temperament was such that he was able to maintain an even keel no matter what happened.  That’s a rare trait in a line cook… heck, that’s a rare trait in most any profession!

David is now living outside of Guadalajara with his wife, Rosalba, and his daughter Miriam.  Since he knew we would be in Mexico, he made arrangements to visit us here in Barra de Navidad this weekend and in addition to Miriam and Rosalba he brought his older daughter, Maria, and her baby, Jasmine.

David, Rosalba, Jasmine, Miriam, Maria, Karen

This morning we went to Melaque, which is located about 5 miles south of Barra.  We sat under an umbrella at one of the restaurants on the beach and spent the day swimming in the surf and enjoying the amazingly beautiful weather.

This evening we let David select the place for us all to eat and he chose a taco stand near the jardin (central garden).  After a sumptuous meal, I asked the waiter to please bring out the Coconut Cream pie I had given him when we arrived.  It was in celebration of seeing David and his family once again – and honoring friendships that can cross cultures and and transcend language barriers.  I am very grateful for the gifts that they bring.

“Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born.” — Anais Nin

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