Tag Archives: barra de navidad

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

Day 303: El Caballo

3 Feb

Pelicans along the shores

Today we awoke to a beautiful sunny morning and before we went anywhere I wanted to prepare my pie.  Today’s pie was for our friend Dale, who is known by a nickname here in Barra de Navidad.  Somewhere along the line someone mentioned that he looked a bit like the famous Mexican actor named Alberto Rojas who is affectionately referred to as “el caballo.”  Ever since then Dale became “el caballo” to his friends in Barra.

The pie that I was making for “our” el caballo was a version of a pie made in Ashland, Oregon.  It is called Dick Hay Pie in honor of Richard Hay who is the principal theater and scenic designer for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.  Dick Hay Pie is made with three main ingredients: peanut butter, vanilla ice cream, and chocolate.  Since I had brought peanut butter and chocolate with me,  I went out to purchase some ice cream at one of the local shops.  Once I got back to the apartment I made a chocolate cookie crust and let it cool while the ice cream softened up a bit.  Then it was simply a matter of sandwiching one thin layer of peanut butter between two layers of vanilla ice cream in the crust.  It was topped with a heavy drizzle of chocolate and then the pie went back into the freezer for about 8 hours.

With the pie taken care of, we decided to take a walk along the shoreline.   We saw more of the damage from the recent hurricane.  We also saw hundreds of pelicans in the area.  Watching them fly, dive, and land on the water made me think that’s what birds must have looked like in the age of the dinosaurs.

After our walk we met up with our friends and took a boat across the water to Colamilla for lunch at one of the restaurants along the shore.  I love that these restaurants are built on the beach, the floors are the sand,  and that the ocean laps on the shore just a few feet from the tables.  It is so relaxing!  This restaurant even had a few hammocks installed should someone need to take a short nap before the boat ride back to town.

Alberto Rojas, El Caballo

This evening we all met up and had an impromptu celebration at the hotel for el caballo’s birthday.   We sang Feliz Cumpleanos and toasted his health.  As we cut up the pie we found that it was so rich that one nine-inch pie was more than enough for 14 people!   I encourage you to make one of these pies for your next special occasion… it is easy to make and so delicious… and definitely worth it!

Each day comes bearing its own gifts. Untie the ribbons. Ruth Ann Schabacker

Day 302: Linda’s Birthday

2 Feb

Two years ago, at about this time, we arrived in Barra de Navidad during what seemed like a stormy season.  The sky was filled with clouds and rain fell for the first couple of days.  On one of those nights, Marie invited us to the Hotel Sands to celebrate her friend Linda’s birthday.

Tonight we were once again invited to celebrate Linda’s birthday but this time the celebration was being held at Lucy’s restaurant.  The event was a pot luck and so it was only fitting that I bring a pie as my contribution to the meal.

To help me put the finishing touches on the pie, I brought Marie’s grandsons, Ke’ale and Pueo, to my apartment.  They waited patiently as I whipped the cream and coated the banana slices for the top of the pie.  When it was finally done, I asked them to pose with the pie.  This is what that looked like:

Tonight’s Chocolate Banana Cream Pie recognizes friends who are like family and the tender threads that hold us all together.  And to Linda, Feliz Cumpleanos!

Day 301: Construction Crew

1 Feb

Yesterday I mentioned how the hurricane caused damage to some of the buildings along the shoreline in Barra de Navidad.  Last night we saw some of the workers building retaining walls, pouring concrete, etc., but they were doing it without the benefit of a pump or a concrete mixing truck to facilitate the work.   Instead the men had a small machine that mixed the concrete and then they carried it by the bucketful to the backhoe which in turn put it where it was needed.  Backbreaking labor to say the least.

Last night when  I saw them working so hard I thought I surely must bring them a pie.  This morning I put together a chocolate peanut butter pie and placed it in the fridge to set.  Then we took a launch to the island across from Barra de Navidad so that we could explore the island.

Being on that island – especially on the side of the island with the Grand Bay Hotel is in a way surreal.  There is so much money invested in the hotel while a short boat ride away there is a great need for that capital infusion.   The word “opulence” only begins to describe it.  We took a few photos.

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When we got back to our apartment, I quickly added melted chocolate to the top of the pie and popped it into the freezer to set up quickly.  After a much-needed shower we took the pie to the men who were working on a hotel property by the shore.  We waited until the cement mixer stopped and then I approached them with my pie.  I told them I’d been making pies and giving them away for 300 days… and then I thanked  them for their work and told them I appreciated their efforts.   While most of the men looked on in what I assume was confusion, one of the men spoke English and thanked me.  I handed him the pie and some forks and plates and we said goodbye before they saw me crying.  How can something as simple as giving a pie feel so overwhelming?

Presenting the pie to the men working at the construction site.

Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.  ~Thomas Edison

 

 

Presenting the pie to the workers

 

Day 300: Lucy

31 Jan

Lucy and her Dolphins

Before we left the apartment today I put together a Chocolate Cream Pie using the same basic custard recipe that I followed yesterday except in today’s batch I added about 4 ounces of chocolate.  Later I tried making whipped cream with what I thought was whipping cream but eventually I figured out that it was closer to half and half (which will never hold a soft peak no matter how long you whip it!).  So until I had whipping cream, I just let the pie set up in the fridge.

Then we took a walk along the beach of Barra de Navidad for the first time since we arrived.  We had heard others mention that in the last week or so there had been an underground (under sea?) earthquake that released some toxic levels of gas which caused thousands of fish to die.   This disaster followed the hurricane that occurred last fall in Barra and caused quite a bit of damage to many of the buildings along the shoreline.

It is hard to understand why some regions experience so much devastation and others seem to go unscathed.  And yet we did not see people complaining at all.  Instead the waiters beckoned us to eat and the vendors set up their wares to sell and somehow the people just carry on as best they can.

After our walk we found a grocer who sold whipping cream and once home I whipped it up and spread it atop the pie.  Finally I found a chocolate bar and grated some of it for the garnish and then we were off to deliver the pie to Lucy.

Lucy runs a restaurant in Barra named appropriately, Lucy’s.  We first met her on our last visit to Barra.  We were introduced to her by our friends Marie and Dale and have enjoyed several cold drinks and the occasional hot meal there.

Lucy has a way of drawing people to her.  She has had guests from around the globe and she has displayed flags from those countries on her wall.  In addition, we saw  she had posted hand-lettered welcome signs to returning visitors.   It’s that kind of thing that keeps her guests coming back year after year – a warm welcome and the knowledge that they have been remembered.

To recognize her for her warmth and hospitality, tonight I brought Lucy the Chocolate Cream Pie.  There is no doubt in my mind that she will share it with her many friends.

I am thankful for the mess to clean after a party because it means I have been surrounded by friends.  Nancie J. Carmody

 

Day 299: Cynthia

30 Jan

Today we woke up in Barra de Navidad which is a lovely town in the state of Jalisco.  My husband did some research online and found a studio apartment for us to rent which would enable me to make pies while we are on vacation.  Until I find an oven that is available these pies will not be baked but rather “cooked.”

For my first pie in Mexico I chose to make a simple custard pie with shredded coconut.  To begin, we headed to a little store (tienda) and purchased butter, eggs, cream, flour, and vanilla (mantequilla, juevos, crema, harina, y vanilla).  I had brought with me crushed graham cracker crumbs for the crust and shredded coconut for the filling.

We were in a hurry to catch a bus so I asked my husband to assemble the crust.  He did this by using a small saute pan to melt the butter and then he added the graham cracker crumbs and toasted them lightly.  Once that was done, he pressed the crumbs into a pie tin and put it in the fridge to set.

Meanwhile I made coconut custard on the two burner stove that we are lucky to have available.  In mere moments it was thickened and smelled heavenly.  I poured the warm custard into the crust and covered it with plastic (to prevent a skin from forming) and then put it into the fridge.  But before I did that, we snapped a few photos.

Coconut Custard Pie and ingredients

Pie with a View

The View

The finished Pie topped with Toasted Coconut

After a day trip to La Manzanilla (where we saw crocodiles!) and a bus ride home that included a man serenading the passengers with songs like “Besa Me Mucho” we came back to our apartment to find the pie had set up nicely.  I toasted some coconut to decorate the top and brought the pie to Cynthia, the woman who oversees this apartment for the owner.  I tried to explain the pie project to her family in my best Spanish and I think they understood the message – it’s all about showing gratitude.

Jose, Cynthia, and Patty

Hasta manana….

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