Sunday, January 31, 2021

Colorful Cuts

On my visit to the Cleveland Museum of Art last Thursday, I happened upon another special exhibit that I found interesting.  It featured the work of a German-American artist by the name of Gustave Bauman.  Bauman was a master of color woodblock printing.  In 2005 Bauman's daughter made a gift of sixty five of her father's woodcuts to the museum.

This series of prints shows what a tedious and time consuming process it was to create his color prints.  A separate woodblock would be carved for each color.  The colors were added one by one to create the finished picture.

Here are some of Bauman's prints which were on display...

Two views of the Grand Canyon

Flowering fruit trees
(In this print Bauman used a background of aluminum leaf for the sky.)

Aspen trees

Redwood trees

Atalaya Mountain in New Mexico looms over an adobe village.

Spring in New Mexico

The Mission of St. Xavier del Bac near Tuscon, Arizona

In my next post from the Cleveland Museum of Art, I will resume with the survey of the history of world art that I began last autumn.

Saturday, January 30, 2021


I am not much of a drinker.  I don't like beer, and, even though I am an aficionado of Mexico, I can't stand the taste of tequila or mezcal.  However, there are two alcoholic beverages from Mexico that I really like.  One of them, one about which I have written on this blog, is x'tabentún (pronounce that "x" like an "sh"), a honey liqueur which is a specialty of the Yucatán.  Unfortunately it is difficult to find outside of the Yucatán, and even more difficult to find north of the border.  

The other drink that I like is rompope, which is Mexico's version of eggnog.  It is a mixture of egg yolk, milk, and sugar with cane alcohol.  According to tradition it was invented in a convent in Puebla, Mexico.  It is considered the type of beverage that little, old ladies' drink, but I don't care.  I like it!

The most common commercial brands of rompope are Santa Clara and Coronado.  I used to be able to buy Coronado at the Mexican supermarket here in Cleveland.  However for the longest time they have no longer carried it.  Then on a recent trip to the store, I saw that they had another brand of rompope that I had never heard of called "Hacienda Guanamé".  Of course I bought a bottle.

It is made in the  Mexican state of San Luis Potosí.  The label says that it has the "best flavour and taste" (interesting that they use the British spelling of flavor), and it does taste very good.  Last week I made another trip to the supermarket, and there were only a few bottles left on the shelf.  I bought two more, just in case they only import it for the holiday season.

Now, occasionally in the evening I will pour myself a small portion of the liqueur, and enjoy its smooth, creamy taste.


Friday, January 29, 2021

It's Open Again!

Regular readers of my blog will remember that last autumn I made several trips to the Cleveland Museum of Art.  I planned to continue my visits throughout the bleak months of winter in order to ward off "cabin fever" as well to have material for my blog.  My goal was to thoroughly explore just a few galleries on each visit, and to photograph highlights of the collections.  Since our museum is very comprehensive, my blog entries would give you a survey of the history of art of the entire world.  Well, that was the plan, but in early November, just a day after my last visit, the museum once again closed due to rising COVID cases in Cuyahoga County.  Fortunately, I had so much material from those three visits, that I was able to periodically write about the museum until nearly Christmas.

Wednesday evening I checked to see if there was any news on when the museum would open again.  I was surprised to learn that they had reopened the week before.  To limit the number of people in the museum, you have to sign up beforehand on the museum's website for a time to visit, and to print off a free ticket.  (Admission to our museum has always been free.)  I wasted no time.  I went to the website that very night to get a ticket for the next day.  Usually there is no problem with availability on weekdays, and I was able to register for a visit on Thursday at 11:30.

So yesterday I was back at our wonderful Cleveland Museum of Art!

As you can see from the picture, you don't have worry too much about social distancing.

I spent about two and a half hours there, but I have loads of photos... enough for four more blog posts!  I will continue with the survey of the history of world art.  (You may remember that I left of with the Middle Ages.)  But first I visited a couple of special exhibits.  One of them was being installed on my last visit, and, as a retired Spanish teacher, I was very interested in seeing it.   So let's start with that... an exhibit on the "mola" textiles of the Guna people of Panama.

The Guna (or Kuna) tribe lives along the Caribbean coast and off-shore islands of Panama.  "Molas" are the blouses created and worn by the Guna women.  Each "mola" is decorated on the front and back with elaborate and imaginative hand-embroidered panels.


The exhibit includes numerous blouses as well as embroidered panels.  They come from the museum's own collection as well as from the museum of Denison University in central Ohio.  One element seen in many of the embroidered panels is that of double or mirror images, since duality is a central concept in their belief system.  Traditional designs predominate, but the women take freely from outside influences, using everything from movie posters to advertisements for their inspiration. 

This "mola" has a double image of Santa Claus, although the creator's vision of Santa is a bit different from ours.

Animals are a frequent motif such as the large bird on this "mola".

In Guna mythology, the Soul Bird represents the soul of a deceased person.  Here a Soul Bird is shown on a boat decorated with flags embarking on the journey to the afterlife.

In their mythology, lunar eclipses occur when a Sky Dragon eats the moon.

Illustrated books of Bible stories served as a source of material.  Here Adam and Eve eat the forbidden fruit.

This blouse was inspired by a movie poster of a 1978 film about a boxing kangaroo called "Matilda".

Women in Panama received the vote in 1946.  Some Guna women then began to use their blouses to promote their favorite candidates.  These panels urge voters to vote for the "Partido Liberal" (Liberal Party) of dictator Manuel Noriega.  He later lost the support of the Guna people when he built a military base on their land.

The top panel has a double image of medicine men curing the sick, and the bottom image has incense braziers which are used to expel disease.

Panels with double images of birds

Stay tuned.  There will be much more to come from the Cleveland Museum of Art!

Thursday, January 28, 2021

Remembering María Luisa

It was three years ago today that Alejandro's mother, María Luisa, passed away.

 My favorite photo of her

María Luisa was a sweet, good-hearted person who welcomed me into the family.  She was also a strong woman who, as is so often the case in Mexican households, was the backbone of the family.

In January of 2018, just days before I was scheduled to leave for my winter trip to Mexico, Alejandro told me that his mom was gravely ill in the hospital.  Rather than stay in the condo that I rent in Mexico City, I spent most of my time at the family house.  Alejandro and his sister Sandra took turns being with their mother in the hospital twenty-four hours a day.  I tried to make myself useful by cooking, cleaning and helping Sandra's little son, Ezra, with his homework.  

Finally she was released from the hospital so that she could spend her last days at home.  I still get tears in my eyes when I remember the smile on her face when she saw me there.  At the end we were all gathered around her bed... Ezra crying next to his grandma, her husband Pedro grief-stricken, Alejandro reading verses from the Bible.  Later, after the funeral, Sandra gave me a big hug and thanked me for being a part of the family, and we both broke down in tears.

It was a sad, painful time, but I am so glad that I was there with my "Mexican family".

María Luisa, we miss you, and we remember you with love in our hearts. 

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

20th Century Houses

More than a week ago, I wrote an entry with photos of some of the century houses in Berea, Ohio.  But many, if not most, of the houses in Berea were built in the second half of the twentieth century.  There are a few which are not the typical suburban homes, but which stand out as unique examples of modern architecture.

Just a short walk from my home, on a street called Crossbrook, is this interesting house.  As you can see it  "crosses the brook".

Actually it is cantilevered to hang over the brook.  A small dam was built on the stream to create a little waterfall and a pond beneath the house.  I'm not sure, but I believe that it once belonged to the real estate developer who built the neighborhood.

A little more than a mile away is this unusual house.  It was built in 1962 by a local architect.  

The ground floor consists of the garage and an entrance foyer.  All of the living space is on the upper floor which consists of floor-to-ceiling windows all the way around.  To the rear there is a view of Wallace Lake in the Cleveland Metroparks.

I'm not sure that I would want to live in either one of these, but they certainly are interesting and eye-catching houses.

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Let's Try This Again

 Last July, the Class of 1970 of my alma mater, Berea High School, was supposed to hold our 50th class reunion.  Obviously, that did not occur because of the pandemic.  Last week I received an email from our reunion's organizer that we are rescheduled for September 11th.  Hopefully by that time life will be returning to normal.  We senior citizens should certainly all be vaccinated by then.

The very clever logo for our rescheduled reunion was designed by classmate Dick Close.

Nowadays it would not be considered politically correct, but our high school team was called the Berea Braves... hence the image of a Native American in the logo.  I did not notice at first that Dick superimposed a mask on the brave's face.

I'm looking forward to our big, although delayed, reunion.  Hopefully we will have a good turnout, and a lot of those classmates who have not attended our previous reunions will show up for this one.

Monday, January 25, 2021

Not Surprising


(image taken from the web)

It was announced yesterday that Mexico's President, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, has tested positive for COVID.  Throughout the pandemic he has downplayed its seriousness, and has rarely been seen wearing a mask.  He constantly says that situation is under control.  The news comes as Mexico, in spite of limited testing, has registered record numbers of infections, hospitalizations and deaths.  (With nearly 150,000 deaths Mexico ranks fourth in the world behind the USA. India and Brazil.)

The President is suffering mild symptoms and is in isolation.  His age and history of heart disease put him in the high risk category.

Rumors have spread that he is faking his infection in order to gain sympathy amid falling approval ratings in the polls.  Others are saying that he had already been vaccinated, and that he will use his illness to downplay the effectiveness of the vaccine in a nation where it is in short supply.   I doubt those rumors, and according to what I have read, he had not yet received the first dose of the vaccine.

I do not wish ill upon anyone, but I cannot help but think that karma is getting back at him. 

Sunday, January 24, 2021

Wishing I Were in Mexico

Here are some pretty pictures that I have found in recent days from the website Webcams de México .

The volcano Popocatépetl, outside of Mexico City...

... and morning along the Caribbean coast at Cancún and Playa del Carmen...

Saturday, January 23, 2021

Another Mexican Sauce

 I have already written here about making an authentic ENCHILADA SAUCE from dried "poblano" peppers (genuine enchilada sauce is never tomato-based!), and also the PEANUT SAUCE which is used in "pollo encacahuatado".

Earlier this week I made another trip to the Mexican supermarket in Cleveland, and a couple days later I made another batch of enchilada sauce to put in the freezer.  When I was finished I was wondering if I could find a recipe on the internet to make the sauce for "enfrijoladas".  "Enfrijoladas" are a variation of enchiladas, in which the tortillas, rolled around a filling, are covered with a bean sauce.  Of course, on the internet you can find most anything, and I soon found a recipe that was easy to make and that was made with ingredients that I already had at home.  Alejandro would probably turn his nose up at this recipe since it uses canned beans.  Real "frijoles" he insists must be made from dried beans, sorted, soaked, and cooked in a clay pot.  Well, that's too much work for me!

For my bean sauce, I used two cans of black beans, drained and rinsed, one half cup of chopped onion, some chopped garlic, oregano, and some canned "chipotle" peppers in "adobo" sauce.  The recipe called for one to three peppers... I used five.  Put everything in the blender and blend it into a smooth sauce.  Since I used low sodium beans I added salt to taste.  And that is all there is to it.   Now I have a batch of sauce in the freezer for when I want to make "enfrijoladas" instead of "enchiladas".  

Friday, January 22, 2021

Thursday, January 21, 2021

Turning the Page

Because of the pandemic and security issues, yesterday's inauguration was unlike any we have ever seen, but the transition occurred smoothly and, thank goodness, without  incident.

The night before a short but moving ceremony was held in front of the Lincoln Memorial in memory of those who have died from COVID.  At the end 400 lights were turned on along the Reflecting Pool to represent the more than 400,000 people that we have lost in this country.

During the ceremony, I put a lit candle in my window.

The next day, I watched Kamala Harris and Joseph Biden sworn in as Vice-President and President of the United States.

I do not think that President Biden's Inaugural Speech had any phrases that will go down in the history books such as ""Ask not what your country can do for you..." or "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself".  However. it was intelligent and rational, forceful yet compassionate. It was a speech worthy of a world leader, and it made me proud to call him President of my country. 

The problems that the new administration faces are enormous, but at least we can face the future with a sense of optimism. 

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Adiós, Muchacho

As the "Pendejo-in-Chief" spends his last few hours as President, I'll take a final parting shot at that sorry excuse for a human being with a few pictures that were sent to me or which I found on the internet...

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

It's OK

 As I was walking around through Berea last week, this yard sign gave me a chuckle.

Monday, January 18, 2021

Winter Reading

During the long course of this pandemic I have read some excellent books.  The last book that I finished, however, does not fall into that category.  I guess I am in the minority, since it received rave reviews from the critics.  But I did not like "The Bedlam Stacks" by British novelist, Natasha Pulley.

 At first glance it is a historical novel set in the Victorian era, detailing the efforts of the British to smuggle saplings and seeds of the cinchona tree out of Peru.  The bark of the cinchona tree is used to make quinine, at that time the only treatment available for malaria.  It would seem a perfect book for me.  I love historical fiction, and I have traveled to Peru.  At first it was OK, although I found the author's writing style a bit difficult to follow.  But then the story really went off the tracks when the protagonist reaches Peru.  

Some of the book reviewers described the book as a work of "magic realism".  "Magic realism" is a genre of literature that originated in Latin America.  It adds magical elements to its realistic portrayal of the world.  I have read numerous works of this genre that I enjoyed such as "Like Water for Chocolate" by Mexican writer Laura Esquivel.  In that novel, the main character, Tita, is able to convey her thoughts and emotions to others through her cooking.  The magic creates a unique story, but never seems to overwhelm reality.

For her novel "The Bedlam Stacks", the author spent time in Peru.  She could have skipped the time and expense, because the Peru she portrays is a fantasy world devoid of reality.  The protagonist arrives at a town located near the prized cinchona forests.  The town is built upon towering stacks of volcanic glass.  In this bizarre place there are stone statues which are able to move.  It is always cold and snowing, which completely ignores meteorological reality.  Yes, it can be bitterly cold in the high Andes, but the cinchona forests are located on the tropical, eastern slopes descending toward the Amazon basin.  Cinchona doesn't grow in the snow!  In spite of the cold, the air is filled with luminescent pollen, and any movement in the air causes the pollen to glow.   I managed to make it through to the end, but I got so sick and tired of reading about the darned pollen!  As I said, the book received rave reviews.  You  might enjoy it, but I didn't. 

Right now I am in the middle of a classic of American literature, John Steinbeck's "East of Eden".  

The Nobel Prize winning author is best known, perhaps, for "The Grapes of Wrath", but Steinbeck considered this his greatest work.  The novel takes place in the Salinas Valley of California where and author was born.  It is semi-autobiographical, in that one of the characters is based on his maternal grandfather.  It spans the late 19th century to the early 20th century, and tells the story of two families, the Trasks and the Hamiltons.  As the title implies, the book's themes are drawn from the Book of Genesis, particularly the stories of Adam and Eve, and Cain and Abel.  When it was published in 1952 it was an immediate bestseller, although it was panned by reviewers.  Today it is acclaimed by literary critics, and it remains popular with the reading public.  I remember enjoying the TV miniseries adaptation in 1981, but I can't recall all the details of the story or even how it ends.  So I am now rediscovering this epic saga.  I am about one third of the way through the book, and I thoroughly recommend it.

Sunday, January 17, 2021

Century Houses

One pleasant day last week (at least pleasant for mid-January in Ohio) I took a walk to the neighboring town of Berea.  The city limits are just around the corner from me.  I have written several entries here about Berea, a town which had an interesting history as a center of the sandstone quarrying industry in the late 1800s.  

There are many historic homes in Berea, primarily around the campus of Baldwin-Wallace University.  In fact, the neighborhood has been designated as the Century Home District.

Some years ago, the Berea Historical Society put plaques on many of the Berea homes which were more than 100 years old.  Now, as we are well into the 21st century, there are surely many more houses which would qualify.  These were the homes of Berea's professional people, merchants, and college professors.  Most of the immigrant workers in the quarries lived outside what were then the limits of the village of Berea.  Today many of the houses are meticulously maintained, others need some work, but they all add to the architectural interest of the city.

Here are photos of some of Berea's century houses...

This house was once the home of Berea's founder, John Baldwin.  However, since the town was founded in 1836 and this house was built in 1871, it was obviously not his first home.




date unknown

These two houses do not have plaques although they surely must date back to the late Victorian era.  They have always been favorites of mine.

I can remember when this house, built in 1855, was the home and office of a local dentist.  Now it belongs to Baldwin-Wallace University.
Notice the ornate "gingerbread" decorating the gable.






Beyond the center of town there are other houses with "Century House" plaques.



Notice the grindstone in front of this house, a reminder of how the manufacturing of grindstones was a part of Berea's heyday as the "Sandstone Capital of the World".

This house, located next door to the Berea Fire Department, has no plaque but it is obviously very old.  It is built of Berea sandstone.  The house is unoccupied, but it appears (hopefully!) that restoration work is underway.