Wednesday, May 30, 2018

New on the Menu

The deer population which nightly passes through my property would regard my garden as a "salad bar" if I did not constantly spray repellant.  Their favorite, of course, are the hostas… and I have a load of hostas in my garden.  Those plants have all been sprayed, and, so far, they have not been touched.  

Today I noticed that the deer have discovered a new tasty treat.  They have never before bothered my Siberian iris, but today I saw that they have chewed off most of the buds.  In the photo below I think that you can see the chewed-off stems.

Of course I immediately sprayed the buds which remain, but the number of blossoms that I will have will be much diminished this year.

Fortunately I had sprayed this Asiatic lily that I planted yesterday.  Otherwise, all of the buds would have probably been gone.

Among the flowers that the deer seem to ignore (knock on wood) are the Mexican primrose which my cousin Gail gave me a couple years ago...

and the amsonia, which are always very pretty each spring.

If only the deer had a diet exclusively of weeds!

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

What Do You Think?

A few years ago when I was at one of the local garden centers, I bought several glass and ceramic spheres which are meant to be placed on a pedestal as a "gazing globe".  These are of different colors rather than the traditional silver, reflective spheres.  Instead of putting them on pedestals, I arranged them on the ground.

I didn't put them out last summer, but yesterday I brought them out of the storage shed.  Sometimes, when I look at them I think that they look cool.  Other times I think they look silly... as if I had set a bunch of bowling balls in the garden.  What do you think?

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Heading Out Back

I have finished cleaning out the flower beds in the front, and I have now started with the beds behind the house.  I began with what I used to call the herb garden.

It used to be an island and contained mainly herbs.  But over the years it has grown and is now attached to the main perennial garden.  The only herbs there now are chives, oregano, lemon balm and mint.  (The last two are invasive, and each year I am ripping out large quantities.)  I used to have a lot of bee balm, but for some reason none of it came up this year (Notice the bare space in the lower right corner).  I will have to plant something in its place.  Perhaps some more daylilies... they seem to thrive anywhere.

The spiderworts are now in bloom.

They are also invasive and pop up in beds where I have never planted them.  They are pretty, but each year I dig out clumps that are taking over areas where I do not want them.

One clump has mutated into almost white flowers.  I wonder how that happened.

Farther back, the Siberian iris have begun to bloom.  

The honeysuckle vine is also blooming.  I planted it years ago because I wanted its beautiful fragrance.  Unfortunately, this particular variety has no scent at all.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

You Will Be Missed

My sister-in-law, Barbara, passed away this morning.

She had been bravely battling cancer.  When she was diagnosed, she was given one year to live.  She refused chemotherapy, and went on to live six more years.  Most of that time she was able to lead a fairly active, independent and happy life... dining out and going to the movies, spending time with her grandson, enjoying holidays and family celebrations, or just sitting down with a good book.

It was a gift to us all to have her smiling presence for those unexpected, additional years.

We will miss you, and treasure the memories that we have of you. 

Monday, May 21, 2018

More Azaleas

Another one of my azalea bushes burst into full bloom seemingly overnight.

Saturday, May 19, 2018


I have always wanted to hear a live performance of Beethoven's 9th Symphony by the Cleveland Orchestra, and last Thursday I got my wish.

(Concertgoers received a free poster commemorating the Cleveland Orchestra's centennial.)

This season is the 100th anniversary of the Cleveland Orchestra, one of the greatest orchestras in the entire world.  To conclude the season this month, conductor Franz Welser-Most scheduled five programs performing all the symphonies of Beethoven.  This Thursday, Friday and Saturday, was the grand finale of the centennial.  The orchestra played the last symphony which Beethoven wrote... his spectacular Ninth, the "Choral Symphony".  Next weekend the orchestra will travel to Vienna to perform all the Beethoven symphonies, and then in June they will go to Tokyo. 

I have been to many orchestra concerts in Cleveland's beautiful Severance Hall and the summer home at Blossom Center, but this was one of, if not the most memorable.  The evening began with Beethoven's "Grosse Fuge", the final movement of his String Quartet in B-flat major arranged for full string orchestra.  It was very nice... but I suspect that most people were eagerly anticipating the main event.  After intermission the orchestra returned to the stage, and the 150 members of the Cleveland Orchestra Chorus marched onto the stage as well.  The chorus is one of the only professionally-trained, all volunteer choruses in the U.S.  The house lights went down, and one of the greatest pieces in the history of music began.  The Ninth is Beethoven's longest symphony. It runs about sixty five minutes. The first three movements were beautifully played.  Then a dissonant chord opened the final movement... the chorus had risen to its feet... and four vocal soloists appeared on stage.  "The Ode to Joy", the lyrics taken from the German poet Friedrich Schiller, had begun.  I have heard recordings of this symphony many times, but it cannot compare to hearing a live performance.  The audience was engulfed in the sounds of the orchestra and the voices of the chorus and soloists.  Adjectives such as awesome and overwhelming are inadequate.  I am not ashamed to admit that I was trembling and teary-eyed.

And then it was over.  The audience rose to its feet and gave the performers a thunderous ovation.  The applause went on and on.  How long?  Five minutes?  Ten?  I don't know, but I do know that I have never heard such a prolonged response.  And although I am not one to shout, "Bravo!", I was shouting at the top of my lungs and applauding until my hands were sore. 

It was a tremendous evening, one that makes me proud to be a Clevelander!  

Friday, May 18, 2018

More Blooms

Several days of rain have prevented me from working in the garden, but now we have had some nice weather, and I once again am making some progress.

The creeping phlox, which I showed on my last gardening post, has now passed its prime, but more flowers are now blooming...

Sweet woodruff, a ground cover, has pretty white flowers this time of year.

The columbines are blooming, and there are loads of little seedlings coming up, which will provide blossoms in future years.

Some of the azalea bushes are now in full bloom.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

An Evening with Irma

I wrote in an earlier post about my dear friend Irma. I have known her since my college days, almost fifty years ago.  She was the wife of one of my Spanish professors, and they would frequently entertain the Spanish students at their home.  Irma was born and raised in Jalapa, the capital of the Mexican state of Veracruz, before coming to the United States.  She still has family in Jalapa, and she was visiting down there at the same time that I was in Mexico City on my most recent trip.

Irma has a collection of Nativity scenes, so while I was in Mexico City, I bought her a couple of "nacimientos" at the International Fair that was being held on the main plaza.

The one to the left is from El Salvador and the one to the right is from Peru.  

It's difficult to make out in the photo, but the Peruvian Nativity scene is quite charming because not only are the figures dressed in Andean garb, but instead of a cow there is a llama.

Irma and I got together yesterday, and she was very pleased with the additions to her collection.

We then went out to a Ukrainian restaurant for dinner  I have been there a couple times, but Irma, who always enjoys dining at new places, had never been there.  The Ukrainian cuisine is similar to Polish cooking and features pierogi.  Irma had never tasted pierogi even though they are very popular here in the Cleveland area with its large Eastern European population.

So, after starting with a cup of borsht, she had a "pierogi sampler" and a plate of kielbasa with sauerkraut.

She liked everything she tasted, and wants to return sometime for more Ukrainian cooking.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

The Horsemen of the Americas

When I am in Mexico City I always check to see if there is a special exhibit in the Palace of Iturbide, an 18th century mansion located in the heart of the historic district.  The building is owned by Banamex, the Bank of Mexico, and is the headquarters of their cultural foundation.  Several times a year they have exhibits in the courtyard of the old palace.  Admission to these shows is free, and they are usually very good.  I have written about several of them here on the blog.

The show that was going on while I was there on my recent trip (and which will continue through September) is called "América, Tierra de Jinetes"... "America, the Land of Horsemen".

Ever since the Spanish brought their horses during the conquest of the New World, horsemen have played an important role in the culture of the hemisphere... from the U.S. to Argentina.

Among the types of horsemen portrayed in this show are:  the Mapuche, the indigenous tribe of the Patagonia of Chile and Argentina...  the Huasco, the cowboy of Chile... the Charro, the gentleman cowboy of Mexico, with his wide sombrero and elaborately decorated suit...

the Gaucho, the cowboy of the plains of Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay and Brazil...
the Cowboy of the western United States...

the Plains Indians of the United States.... and the Cholán horsemen of Peru.

The show has a wide variety of artwork, clothing, saddles, and memorabilia relating to these horsemen drawn from private collections and museums in the United States, Mexico and South America.  My only criticism of the show is that not all of the objects are as clearly identified as they have been in other shows here.

"Buffalo Hunt", a painting by the famous Western artist, George Caitlin.

A bronze sculpture of a Cheyenne horseman by Frederick Remington.

A beautiful landscape of the Valley of Mexico in the 19th century which includes in the foreground a "rancho" and horsemen.  (In the background are the snow covered volcanoes.  Mexico City stretches across the horizon, and Chapultepec Castle is to the right.)

Argentinian gauchos herding cattle on the Pampas.

A delightful nativity scene from the Mexican town of Metepec.  Here the three kings are portrayed as "charros".

A "Day of the Dead" interpretation of a Mexican cowboy and his "señorita".

A Mexican clay sculpture known as a "Tree of Life".  Traditionally these portrayed Biblical themes (especially the story of Adam and Eve), but now they often have non-Biblical images.  This one is a "charro" tree.

A movie poster from the Golden Age of Mexican cinema.  Pedro Almendáriz was one of the biggest stars of the 1940s and 50s.  He often played the role of a "charro" or of a revolutionary such as Pancho Villa.

A portrait of Simón Bolívar, the hero of South American independence.

Emiliano Zapata, hero of the Mexican Revolution.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Travel Plans - Definite and Tentative

I have only been back home for a few days, but I have already made my flight reservations to return to Mexico.  I will return in the middle of July.  Alejandro advised that I should wait until well after the Presidential election on July 1st.  Prior to the election, campaign rallies may be a disruption, and, depending on who wins, protest marches afterward may also be a problem.  This time I am abandoning my favorite airline, Interjet, and going back to United.  The United fare was so cheap that I could upgrade to the more comfortable "Economy Plus" seats for all four segments of the round trip journey, and still come out ahead.

I have written previously about my cousin Gail who lives about five minutes away from me.  We first made contact when by chance she read about my genealogical research here on this blog.  She and her husband are talking about taking a tour of Switzerland next summer.  At the end of their tour they want me to join them and introduce them to our Swiss cousins, and to visit our ancestral town.

I am seriously thinking of flying to Switzerland via Iceland. This month Icelandic Airlines is starting non-stop service from Cleveland to Reykjavik.  Travelers are welcome to spend some time in Iceland before continuing on to Europe at no additional cost in airfare.  I could spend a few nights in Reykjavik, do some sightseeing, and then fly on to Zurich.  After spending some time with my Swiss cousins, I could then take a train on to Austria and visit Salzburg and Vienna.  

I don't know if this will happen or not, but today I bought guidebooks for Iceland and Austria, and I have gone back to studying my German. 

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Spring Has Sprung

While I was in Mexico for most a the month of April, I heard from friends back in Ohio that the weather there was lousy.  I looked back at the statistics, and the month was rather schizophrenic.  There were a few days where the temperature climbed into the 70s, but there were also days where the temperature never made it out of the 30s.

Then on the first of May there began a string of six days with highs in the 80s or upper 70s.  Suddenly everything began to sprout.  My garden looked very different from when I left in early April, and we were still struggling to escape winter.

Today was a beautiful, sunny day with a high of 81 degrees Fahrenheit.  I went outside and I began to on my flower beds... a project which will continue through May and June.  I started cleaning up one of the beds in the front yard where the creeping phlox is in full bloom.

Tomorrow it is supposed to rain, but I can say that my gardening work has begun!

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Flying Home

Yesterday was a long day.  I got up at 4:00 A.M. to get to the airport for my flight on Interjet Airlines from Mexico City to Chicago.  Then after a lengthy layover at O'Hare, I had a United flight to Cleveland.  It was 10:00 P.M. before I stepped in the door.

My flights went smoothly.  As always the Interjet flight (the airline with ample legroom) was comfortable.  Yesterday's flight, however, was much more crowded that usual.  I guess I should avoid traveling on Mondays.

I had an interesting experience on the flight to Chicago.  The flight attendant handed out the customs declarations for everyone to fill out.   There was an older Mexican lady seated in my row who was unable to fill out the form.  I offered to help her, but she said, "No sé escribir." (I don't know how to write.)  I was a bit taken aback.  Mexico's literacy rate is around 95%, and, in all my travels there, I had never encountered anyone who was illiterate.  I told her that I would fill out the form for her if she would hand me her passport.  She did.  I asked her for the address where she would be staying in the U.S., and she gave me a laminated piece of paper with an address in Wisconsin.  I asked her if she were bringing any gifts with her, and she said that she had presents for her grandchildren worth about 50 pesos (around $3 U.S.).  When I gave her back the form, her passport and the address of her family, she asked me how much she owed me.  I shook my head and said that it was my pleasure to be of help.

Sunday, May 6, 2018

The End of Another Trip

The last month has flown by, and now it is time to return to Ohio.  Tonight I will spent the night at Alejandro's house since he lives closer to the airport.  He will drive me to the airport tomorrow morning for my early flight home.

Hasta luego, Ciudad de Mexico!

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Discovering Another Corner of the Historic Center

As I was looking at Google Maps, searching for places in Mexico City which I had not yet visited, I came across Plaza Tlaxcoaque at the southern edge of the "Centro Histórico".  I did some research on it, and on Thursday I went downtown to check it out.  From what I read, the plaza had been recently renovated.  The area is considered dangerous by night but OK during the daytime.

The plaza sits at the very end of 20 de Noviembre Avenue, the busy street which leads directly to the Zócalo, the city's main plaza.

At the opposite end of the avenue you can make out the towers of the Cathedral.

The plaza is surrounded by traffic-clogged streets which feed into 20 de Noviembre.  There is nary a crosswalk in sight in order to cross over to the plaza.  You simply wait for the traffic to come a standstill and make your way between the vehicles.

Standing in the middle of the plaza is a little church dating back to the 17th century, the Chapel of the Immaculate Conception.  

Back when colonial Mexico City was an island in the middle of a lake, this was the southern shore of the city, and the plaza today is considered the southern edge of the historic center.

Next to the church is this rather incongruous monument which was given to the city by the government of Azerbaijan.  It commemorates the Khojaly Massacre which took place during the 1992 war between Azerbaijan and Armenia.  I have no idea why Azerbaijan chose to build this monument here in Mexico City.

In a small green space to one side of the plaza there are several colorful, metal sculptures.

Given the nature of the neighborhood, I am surprised that these sculptures have not been defaced with graffiti.  (Even the church on the plaza has its share of graffiti.)

Just as I was about to head down 20 de Noviembre Avenue toward the Zócalo, the fountains at the edge of the plaza suddenly came on.