Monday, August 31, 2009

Pitaya & Tuberose

The Pitaya

We harvested the lone pitaya. The other two flowers and their potential fruits withered and fell off the vine. Our fruit wasn't the most flavorful, but my reaction was - it would make a tasty beverage (with sugar, water and ice). It looked good, and let's face it, it is my first pitaya fruit. There is some hopeful news: there are two new blooms getting ready to flower. We shall try again!

The Mexican Tuberose
Finding this in my patio was a surprise! It looked like a tuberose, it smelled like one, but I thought I had some sort of iris growing there. I'd been watching it grow and just yesterday I noticed these!

I looked it up and sure enough this is what a Mexican tuberose looks like. Mine is secured to a bambu pole to give it the strength to carry on. The plant looks healthy and I am trying to give it my full support. (The wide leaves around the base of the tuberose are a flowering succulent.)

Thursday, August 27, 2009

You Could Say It Is Hot Here

This is the forecast for Friday August 28th from the Mérida, México page on Weather Underground. I couldn't load the graphics, but there is one thing worth noting here....

Thunderstorm. High: 38 °C . Wind SW 14 km/h . Chance of precipitation 80% (water equivalent of 6.15 mm). Heat Index: 58 °C .

Tell me that is a mistake. Tell me it is not going to "feel like" it is 136.4° F tomorrow.

Ok, so most days lately it has felt like it is almost that hot. Like right now, it is 10:45am and I am holding my swimsuit....I have decided to write IN THE POOL. Catch you up later.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

¡Adios, Well Traveled Jeans!

I've been told it's time to trash these shorts. Say it isn't so!

I was a few sizes bigger when I bought them in 2004. They have always looked baggy because my legs are kind of skinny, however the fabric has relaxed a bit over the years. They are still so comfortable; that was all that ever mattered. I've been practically living in these shorts for five years. The thought of throwing them out brought forth (besides the sadness of losing a good friend) a beautiful memory of our history together, causing this photographic tribute to my favorite jeans:

We've traveled with crazy Aussies through the northern Australian outback to Berry Springs Park outside of Darwin . Driving someone else's rental car, we took to the red dust roads, passing truck trains, stopping at swimming holes like this with crocodiles...both freshies and salties that swim up river. July 2004

And to Litchfield National Park, Top End Australia, posing in front of the giant termite mounds. This is where we made the mistake of reading the guide book AFTER our day in the park. We sat on the ground, exposing ourselves to poisonous chiggers that made us really sick. August 2004

And we've sailed from Darwin, Australia, to Bali, Indonesia. Oh wait, these are not my jeans, this is the swim suit that has survived these same adventures. I saw this photo and was shocked that this WalMart special is still the roughest swimwear I have ever owned. August 2004

We've been to Kuta Beach, Bali, where a new Paddy's Pub replaces the one blown up in October '02. August, 2004. Oops, I've been there twice: I went out one night on my second trip to Bali partying in them and actually entered this place....creepy. January 2007

We've been around southern Mexico. Here we are in Tulúm at some cabañas in the town just a few kilometers from the Caribbean Sea. September 2007

We saw a lot of Central America. Here we are at Amapola, Isla del Tigre, Honduras, where wecould see El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua from this scenic lookout. July 2008

We have shared so much together. I will admit that my ass showing through the tear in the back is not appealing. The shorts have seen better days. I admit it. This is also as clean as they get. Actually I was wondering if I could sell them on eBay. Don't some people pay big bucks to get 'that worn look' on a well traveled pair of jeans?

Ok. They are going into the trash. This may call for some sort of ceremony. Maybe I'd better wear them tomorrow and give this a little more thought.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Fleur de Sel

Salt: Its preservative powers make it an absolute necessity of life and a virtual synonym for live-giving sources.

Fresh harvested sea salt, le fleur de sel, processed and bottled by my Anonymous Roommate.

On August 14th we introduced our new roommate to Celestún and cruised the salt flats. When we visited the area in March there were extensive salt deposits on the beach which resembled soap bubbles. This time we noticed mountains of harvested salt piled around the flats, but the salt on the beach was not as prominent. While researching the salt flats I found this link about Celestún, which I think is full of great information.

Anonymous roommate was on a mission: to harvest and produce fleur de sel, French for 'flower of salt'. Top of the line sea salt! The clean fresh patch pictured below appealed to her. She took off her shoes to walk in the water and quickly learned about the HEAT generated by the solar evaporation process. She jumped back into her shoes - her feet on fire. The ground was as hot as fresh lava. Maybe THAT was why the water was so red, I thought, it's actually on fire.

Anonymous roommate had researched sea salt and carefully picked out the best area to harvest.
After she burned her feet, Pablo went in to get her fresh near-boiling sea water....
Meanwhile I decided to grab some salt, but I found it more convenient to take it from this big pile.

Look at these chunks of salt! Mikey likes 'em!
Once home, anonymous roommate boiled the sea salt in the sea water for two hours. Once it looked like erupting volcanoes, she scraped the top white crystalline layer and put it on a fine screen in the sun. Dried, crushed and filtered, the final product was bottled for our use at home, and the completion of the process made her very happy.

Before I posted these photos, I wanted to do some research on salt. I found out I knew less about it than I'd thought. We used sea salt in Hawaii, but it was orange because of the clay soil, and very chunky. I learned how popular sea salt is when I came across this blog.
I found out about the extra vitamins and minerals found in freshly harvested sea salt. Regular table salt is so highly processed that nutrients are added back to it, like iodine. Refined salt is bad for us, but evidently we can use all the sea salt we can tolerate and live happily and healthily ever after, never to be burdened by high blood pressure, diabetes, gastritis, or any other ills again! Now that we know, we'll go directly to the source for la flor de we ever need an excuse to go to Celestún.
On a final note, the water is not red because it is hot like lava. It is red because of its high salt and algae content. On one of our guided tours of the biosphere I was told the water was red because of the red mangrove. I have since learned that this red algae grows in water with the highest salt content. The mangroves, red, black and green, all contribute to this specific algae growth and produce a large amount of tannin, but mangrove itself does not cause red water. While the assumption that the flamingos are colored by the carotene in the water is correct, the tidbit about the red mangrove having anything to do with it is completely false.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

The Night Swim

Before it gets too dark, check out these cool wall decorations our students gave us. Everyone knows I love dolphins.

This macaw is life size and almost looks alive.

I often mention the aquatic exercisers. I have to give these folks credit for their determination to stay in shape. Mike, pictured below on the left, is very dedicated in his workouts. He comes every morning and a few evenings a week. Most of the time he works hard for an hour or more, but we have some night swims that are more relaxing, laid back, and sometimes include a sunset cocktail or two.

Also pictured below is Theresa, another regular aquasizer, but her "Husband" is sneakily hiding from the photo! Often in the evenings the water is warmer than the air, and it feels so velvety and soothing as we gracefully(?) move around the liquid medium. We actually feel a little chilled when we get out, which is refreshing because it lowers our body temperatures after a long day of intense 100 degree plus heat.

I started writing this post in May, when Jill, another occasional swimmer/imbiber joined us for cocktail night. I have been promising to post these photos for nearly three months. I guess having my main computer on the fritz is inspiring me to work on some unfinished projects.

The look on Mikey's face is more likely guilt at being caught on film drinking during exercise hour than actual inebriation. We really only have a couple of cocktails, if any at all. Jill is in the background acting out YMCA to the disco music we are moving and drinking to.

Just in case you wondered, the air temp is mid 80's and the water 88! Come join us some time! Watch the pitaya flowers open, the cats chase geckos, walk around the pool stopping only for a sip of margarita, michelada or tequila, or just float and meditate.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Heaven on a Spoon: Mayan Chocolate Ice Cream

My favorite ice cream is Hagendaaz MAYAN CHOCOLATE, but they don't sell it here. On occasion I treat myself to a DULCE DE LECHE, but it is difficult to get ice cream home without it completely melting first. When refrozen it is icy and loses that creaminess I crave.

I have tried a few local brands of chocolate ice cream, but they just weren't very chocolaty. The other day at Chedraui I noticed Nestle Abuelita CHOCOLATE CON CANELA. That is chocolate with cinnamon, just like the Hagendaaz Mayan Chocolate. Chocolate Abuelita is a favored brand of chocolate here. It is packaged in octagonal (or are they hexagons?) discs and is blended with hot milk to make hot chocolate. When I saw the brand name on ice cream, I thought it was worth a try.

It is chocolatey, cinnamony, creamy....truly heaven on a spoon. Look for it in your favorite store and break that diet just once, give it the taste test.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Pitaya Flowers - and Dragonfruit

This is a pitaya flower. Earlier today it looked like a wide stalk of asparagus, and this evening it opened up into this:

I saw my first pitaya flower in June, and I posted these photos: Iguanas and Pitaya.
That flower AND its fruit bit the dust. Later another bloomed and it is now developing into a beautiful fruit. Tonight three more flowers opened up and the plant is looking quite healthy. I have high hopes for these new additions to the tropical fruit garden in the patio.

Pitaya is grown in Southeast Asia, Mexico, Central and South America and Israel and is known by several names. I knew it as dragonfruit in Hawaii but never tried it. It is also called pitahaya or strawberry pear. It is the fruit of the climbing cactus hylocereus undatus, and it tastes like a combination of a kiwi and a pear. Others describe its flavor as light and melon like. The fruit is best eaten when chilled, cut in half, scooping out and eating the seeds and flesh. It is also made into a pitaya refresco (blended with ice/water/sugar), which I am anxious to taste.

Dragonfruit is good for you! It is low in calories and high in nutrients like vitamin C, phosphorus, calcium, fiber and antioxidants. It has been said to lower glucose levels in type II diabetes sufferers.

Here is another post about it, and I hope the comments appear on this sure to read Merida Mikey's. Those seeds do require consideration for those with a certain health condition. I am just looking forward to trying it, and out of my own yard it will be so exciting. The truth is the cactus plant grows on the other side of my wall, but it is moving over to my side where its admirers are.

I have been trying to get good photos of the pitaya bloom since the first one appeared in June. Tonight I think I hit the mark on a few shots. I wish I could include the fragrant scent of the beautiful white flowers.

Nighttime magic!

After the flower drops off, this is the fruit. I can't wait to see how big and colorful this gets. Watch future posts for a full report on the harvest. It should be a short report with just 5 anticipated fruits!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Mexican at a Greek Wedding

This is the first time I have tried to upload a video from You Tube. I got it loaded, but it came with comments and it may have been sent to everyone in the world on facebook. I am having a bad relationship with my computer this week, so bear with me. I think this is the funniest commercial I have seen in years. Good thing I like it, they air it every half hour. I just love the looks on the faces of these folks, especially this shy kid who agarró la onda (got into the feeling of the moment).....

I know it should work better than this, but click here if necessary

Lookin' for the Heart of Saturday Night

We went to the centro Saturday night to dance in the street under the stars. As usual, the streets around the zocalo were closed to vehicular traffic for the weekly event. The restaurants' tables were decoratively set up in the streets but only a few tables were occupied. Vendors sat on their stoops watching an occasional couple straggle by. There were very few foreign tourists and surprisingly few Mexican National visitors. It wasn't just a slow Saturday Night In Mérida, it was downright disheartening.

There were NO salsa or cumbia bands set up anywhere. There was an occasional karaoke-kind singer with a boom box, an old man playing his saw, and a few strolling guitarists, but the bandstands usually located every half block were noticeably missing. An unreliable source told us the city administrator had suspended the program. When I asked for how long, our friend said "When his term is over." Whatever that means.

We enjoyed a pleasant walk around the zocalo and were relieved to see they were setting up for Mérida en Domingo, where every Sunday it is full of families, artisanry and food stalls, and two bands play while people dance in the street. At least all tradition has not been lost, and it left me hoping the free programs currently suspended will be reinstated when life lightens up around here a little (flu and economic crises)....

As we walked back to the car we figured we would head into the Mayan Pub instead. It was closed. Blacked out with stickers plastered all over the door saying CLAUSURADO (Officially Shut Down!) We were there just last week and everything seemed fine. There were plenty of people, mostly university students, and a live band playing. I hope it doesn't remain closed, I have history there. I met Pablo at the Mayan Pub, Jude celebrated a birthday and I celebrated finding my Mérida house. Naomi tended bar there one night. The list goes on.

But we are real troupers and went to Plan C. Cubanchero.....the Cuban bar/restaurant with live music. It belongs to a family member of one of the Buena Vista Social Club musicians. We sipped their mojitos, got up and danced, and the night was saved.
We were picked to go up on the dance floor for some halftime humiliation and fun between musical groups. Pablo took the photos as we danced and did silly things.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Fireworks for the Virgin

It's Virgin time again! The neighborhood churches are celebrating the Feast of the Ascension of the Virgin Mary. They start late in July with a carnival at San Sebastian Church, two blocks west of my house. Ferris wheel, merry-go-round, and a few amusement park rides are lit up and filled with folks at night. People fill the park, eat, play games, and hang out through mid-August. I think the church services require the exploding of bottle rockets all day and night. It seems like there is less action this year compared to my first two years in the neighborhood, but that just might be because I haven't bothered to walk up there!

Today was the first procession I noticed in the street. The explosions sounded like bombs going off outside the front gate. When I went to look, I saw this:

This was not the most enthusiastic procession I have seen, but it's 103°F outside and walking on hot asphalt in the city is brutal. The ladies were dressed in huipiles and I captured a few beautiful smiles.

There were many banners like these, and I have no idea what they signify.
The parade even had a marching band!
The patron saint of San Sebastian church and of all Mexico is the Virgin Mary. So although other churches may have their own patron saint, they all still celebrate every one of Mary's feast days. That means the fireworks also go off at La Ermita Church, one block south of here, all day and night for weeks leading up to the big day. The processions may head to a cathedral nearly 25 blocks from here, or maybe they just walk from San Sebastian to La Ermita. I guess I should either research this (I'll put it on my list!) or just follow them one day to see if I can get a grip on this odd mixture of religion, cultures and traditions. It is a pleasure to see them maintain these customs and walk forward proudly with their beliefs.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

¡Let's Talk Tang!

Living in an extreme climate requires extreme measures. In the sweltering summer Yucatecan heat and humidity we learn to consume mass quantities of liquid or suffer the debilitating effects of dehydration. When the heat kicks in around April or May, I'm usually chugging water straight from the garrafón (5 gal. jug) a tiempo (at room temperature). As summer progresses and room temperature surpasses 95°F, I crave ice cold water with ice. After a while I get bored with water. I make iced tea. I drink Cokes. Pablo or I make fresh limeade (an excellent rehydrator), and pineapple or watermelon licuadas (fruit blended with ice/water/sugar). I buy the flavored packets like Tang and Crystal Light. I try to be creative with beverages.

Recently I've noticed a wide expansion of flavors by Tang, Crystal Light (now known as Clight), Zuko among others. I know some folks don't approve of beverages made with artificial sweeteners or ingredients, but I just can't consider these to be the most dangerous substances I could be using. Therefore I try to focus on the extra vitamin A, Bs, C and Iron I am infusing as I down a few liters of tasty, thirst-quenching, rehydrating, sweetly flavored waters every day.

I decided we should try every flavor! Below top row first, left to right, we have: Horchata (rice beverage with cinnamon), Durazno (peach), Tamarindo (tamarind), Piña (pineapple), Moras (berries), Manzana (apple), and Melón (canteloupe). So far I really like the piña, manzana and moras and haven't tried the others yet.

That was just the beginning, below we have: Uva (grape)(mmm...), Naranja (orange)(mmm...), Mandarina (tangerine)(so so...), Tuna (the red fruit of the nopal cactus)(so so...), Fresa (strawberry)(mmm...), Limon (Lime)(always refreshing), and Jamaica (hibiscus flower) (mmm...a Mexican staple, and de-oxidant!)

Mokito says, "What about this Mango packet here?" Oops, either I forgot or I was looking to sneak Mokito into another photo. Mango is delicious.
The Tang flavors I didn't find to complete my collection I have represented below by other manufacturers: Sandía (watermelon)(mmm...), Guayaba (guava)(surprisingly scrumptious), Pera (pear) and Guanábana (soursop) which I haven't tasted yet.

These are my favorite Clights, Limon Cristal, Toronja Rosada (pink grapefruit), Brisa de Mandarina and Flor de Jamaica. There are many more flavors, mostly variations of what you've seen above.

Makes you thirsty just thinking about it, doesn't it? And may I add many of these refrescos go quite well with vodka, rum, or tequila (not so sure about mezcal tho!) and a slice of lime.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Chocolate Tequila

There was a buy two - get one free oferta at the supermarket Sunday, and TEQUILADOR tequila was one of the specials. The bottles are beautiful, and we found the tequila to be top quality. We bought one white tequila, one gold reposado, and one Chocolate tequila.

The chocolate tequila reminds me of Bailey's Irish Cream; in consistency, not flavor. It was very tasty as a shooter or a sipper. It is 100% agave combined with Belgian chocolate, 17% alcohol content. Absolutely delicious. I just poured a taste tester to write this description. I think it would be good poured over ice, or mixed with kahlua and maybe a tad more tequila.

This was not an inexpensive extravagance, but it was a worthwhile one. When we got home from buying half the supermarket (we were hungry, breaking rule #1 of grocery shopping: always shop after eating, not before) we decided to taste the chocolate liqueur.

The new roommate needed an attitude adjustment to overcome computer frustrations as well as to celebrate her first two weeks immersed in the bizarre life we lead in Mérida...extreme heat, lots of people, weird black food, Spanish TV, etc. Pablo received a disturbing phone call while we were driving home from the store, and I was just in the mood to catch a good buzz. I too had been stressed out all week. So we broke into the gold tequila. It was smooth and delicious. Before we sucked that dry, I put it away and broke out the white bottle. It seemed pretty tasty, and it was definitely doing the trick. I had to make a phone call and was blabbering for about an hour in another room away from the tequila, or the difference of another 4 or 5 shots consumed by Pablo and Anonymous roommate. We laughed, told stories, and got to know each other better. Pablo's English improved immensely as roommate's Spanish flowed more fluently. We were dancing in the dining room. We had a great time. Then Pablo hit the hammock and was fast asleep, or passed out, depending on your assessment of the situation. Anonymous roommate went upstairs, not necessarily remembering the end of the fiesta the next morning. I went to bed too, planning to watch a midnight CSI without seeing even the opening scene.

We all suffered the next day, but the hangover of quality poison! My stomach didn't bother me at all, I had NO headache, and the only ill effects I felt were an insatiable hunger, thirst and approximately three brain cells in operation. I was able to do my daily chores, of which there are many right now with the cat sitting jobs besides the normal chaos of swim school. Luckily for us, we don't drink much alcohol and very rarely get bombed. But the full moon was rising and we had some bonding to do. We continued bonding with our mutual hangovers later. After a three hour nap in the hammock and another bowl of Midwestern chicken stew, I felt human again. Now it is 2am and I am fully recouperated and my mind is chock full of things I would like to post here. Onward nature lovers and crazy fun loving adventurers! (Onward Christian soldiers doesn't work for me.)
Next food item I have to try will be from the authentic Yucatecan Lebanese Taquería. Maybe we should take the chocolate tequila with all makes about the same amount of sense to my taste feelers.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Best Friends

"Mokito" by Josseline, 1 Aug 2009...Refrigerator Art

Most cats are afraid of children, much like myself. Not Mokito. He loves everyone, and even if kids are awkward in their attempt to give him love, he tolerates it.

We have an adorable little 5 year old girl in Pablo's swim class on Saturday named Josseline. All the cats head over the wall for adventure in the mornings after breakfast, except Moka, who has a 24 hr. a day self-appointed post as Sergeant-at-Arms for the commando inside the compound. When Josseline started coming to class, Mokito would come back over the wall just to visit her. She fell in love with him, hypnotized by his adorable face and sky blue eyes. For the past two weeks he was busy hunting during Josseline's class, and she missed him.

This past week she brought a picture she'd drawn and colored FOR Mokito OF Mokito. She was dying to give it to him, but he didn't appear. If you know cats, you know they don't normally come when called. If they are five feet away they usually look at you with this, "What? Are you serious? I am busy licking my balls and what's more, I am not your slave. You have that backwards my giant friend. Now get over here and scratch my head."

Saturday Pablo and I called for Mokito. We told him he had a visitor. I was surprised and elated that he responded and meowed walking the wall, jumping down the tree, and running over to greet Josseline. We took them inside, and she presented him with the picture. She held him and hugged him, and as you can see, he TOLERATED it. He may really love it, as I know he loves the attention, but he doesn't look physically comfortable and his eyes portray his little attitude. He knows he's special and he has to allow the world love him, after all, I think it is his raison d'etre.

Here are photos of Josseline's tender moment and Mokito's tolerant one.

Best of firends!

Since we are on to the cat commando, how about this Weasel? He came in and found Busmo sleeping and decided to get himself a little action!

Busmo turned over and they they embraced.
When Weasel started cleaning Busmo's butt, Busmo woke up and said "Whoa! Weasel. Enough already." I had to share this little scene. Hey, the moon is full and everyone is either horny or looking for affection.
Best of buddies, Weasel & Busmo.