Monday, March 20, 2023

Happy Birthday, Benito


(image taken from the internet)

Today is a national holiday in Mexico... the birthday of Mexico's most revered President, Benito Juárez.  (His birthday is actually on March 21st, but, as in the United States, many holidays are observed on a Monday so as to create a three-day weekend.)  

There are no big parades or celebrations on this day.  It might be compared to our Presidents' Day.  Government offices, banks and schools and some businesses are closed, but for most people it is just another day.  

Without really planning it, I guess I am going to be celebrating Juárez's birthday.  I am going to visit my friends Nancy and Fred today, and we always go out for lunch at a nearby Mexican restaurant. 

Sunday, March 19, 2023

Visiting the Tudors

The Cleveland Museum of Art currently has a special exhibit entitled "The Tudors, Art and Majesty in Renaissance England".  The Tudors, in case you don't remember from your history class, were the family that ruled England from 1485 until 1603.  The dynasty began with Henry VII, who took the throne at the end of the War of the Roses, and continued with his son, the infamous Henry VIII, and his progeny, Edward VI, Mary I, and Elizabeth I.

Objects from the Tudor era have been brought together from a variety of museums and private collections for this exhibit.  Last week I went with several friends to see this outstanding show.


As you enter the exhibit you see an enormous bronze candelabrum.  I had my friend Frank stand in front of it to give you an idea of its size.

The candelabrum was one of several objects commissioned by Henry VIII's chancellor, Cardinal Wolsey, to be a part of his tomb.  When Wolsey fell out of favor with the King, the objects were confiscated.

Next to the candelabrum are two bronze angels that were also supposed to be part of the Cardinal's tomb.  

This is the first time in more than 400 years that these bronze pieces have been brought together again.

This enormous Flemish tapestry, entitled "The Creation and Fall of Man", was part of a set of ten that were ordered by Henry VII.  The tapestry includes gold and silver threads.

This ecclesiastical garment, known as a cope, is one of thirty vestments that Henry VII commissioned for use in Westminister Abbey.

This terracotta statue of St. John the Evangelist was one of 32 saints that were supposed to adorn the tomb of Henry VII.

This portrait of Elizabeth I was painted when she was 34 years old.  She is portrayed as an attractive, marriageable, young woman at a time in her life when negotiations were underway to find her a suitable husband.

Of course, Elizabeth, nicknamed the "Virgin Queen", never married, and her death brought the Tudor dynasty to an end.

Henry VIII had one son, Edward, who would succeed his father upon his death.  This portrait of the young prince was done by the court painter, Hans Holbein the Younger.

This full-length portrait of Henry VIII was done by the workshop of Hans Holbein.

This portrait of Henry VIII was done when he was 18, shortly after his coronation and his marriage to his first wife, Catherine of Aragon.

Henry VIII's oldest child, Mary, was the daughter of Catherine of Aragon.  After the death of her half-brother, Edward VI, she succeeded to the throne.

Mary I was the first woman to rule England as queen. She reversed the English Reformation and restored the Catholic Church in England.  She formed a marriage alliance with her mother's family, marrying her cousin, Felipe, the heir to the Spanish throne.  In this portrait, the pendant that she wears was a gift from Felipe.  She died childless at the age of 42, and was succeeded by her half-sister, Elizabeth.

A stained-glass window that was commissioned by Henry VIII for King's College at Cambridge.

A suit of field armor, probably made for Henry VIII

This Ming Dynasty ewer and two-handled bowl were bequeathed by Sir Walter Raleigh to Robert Cecil, Elizabeth's Secretary of State.

This tankard made of limestone and gilded silver was made by the court goldsmith and may have been a New Year's gift to Elizabeth I.

Even though England and France were often enemies, the English aristocracy still treasured French luxury products.  The "sea-dog" table was made in Paris and was purchased by the Earl of Shrewsbury.  His estranged wife, Bess, was one of Elizabeth's courtiers.

Bess, the Countess of Shrewsbury, commissioned this portrait of Elizabeth for her country home.

I have more to show you from this exhibit in a future post.

Saturday, March 18, 2023


Last weekend, when Alejandro called me on Skype, I was surprised to see that he was in the kitchen.  He had his cellphone propped up on the counter while he was preparing something.  Even though it is something most associated with Christmas, Alejandro had decided to make "buñuelos".  "Buñuelos" are a type of sweet fritter that are common throughout the Spanish-speaking world.  They vary in shape in different countries, but in Mexico they are flat, deep-fried discs made with a dough that contains flour, baking powder, sugar, butter, vanilla and water.  I don't know what inspired Alejandro to make "buñuelos" that evening... perhaps a sense of nostalgia, since they are something he and his mother used to make.  He was just going to make a small batch, but he and his mom would work late into the night making an enormous quantity of the fritters.

We chatted while he prepared the dough.  I took a couple of photos on Skype while he worked.  (I was glad to see that he had taken off his wedding ring.  I wouldn't want the ring to slide off into the "buñuelo" dough!)

Finally, the dough was the right consistency.  It then had to be allowed to rest in a bowl.

Shortly after that, we ended our conversation.  Later he sent me a couple more photos that he had taken.

The dough is rolled out into thin circles.

The circles are then deep-fried.

The "buñuelos" are often dusted with sugar or served with syrup.

Maybe someday, after I have moved to Mexico, the two of us can make "buñuelos" for Christmas.

Friday, March 17, 2023

Cabbage, But No Corned Beef

Today is St. Patrick's Day, and many people across the United States will be eating corned beef and cabbage, thinking that it is a traditional Irish dish.  In fact, in 19th century Ireland, beef was a luxury that was rarely eaten by the poor in Ireland.  The most typical and cheapest meat was pork, especially bacon.  In the 1800's impoverished Irish immigrants to the United States found that beef was cheaper and more abundant here.  Many of them lived in slums alongside Jewish and Italian immigrants.  It was in the Jewish delis that the Irish newcomers discovered corned beef, salt cured brisket, and it reminded them of the bacon to which they were accustomed.  Cabbage was also inexpensive, so corned beef and cabbage cooked together in a pot became a staple dish of the Irish immigrants.

I am not a big fan of corned beef.  I find that too often it is stringy, and I'm not much of a beef eater anyway.  So, I am not having corned beef today.  However, I am making a big pot of cabbage soup.  I found a recipe on the internet that I always use.  It is the so-called "fat burning" soup that is supposedly good for losing weight.  This morning I chopped up the vegetables... celery, onions, bell peppers, carrots, and, of course, a head of cabbage.  I added tomato juice, chicken broth (the recipe calls for beef broth), canned whole tomatoes, frozen green beans, a packet of dry onion soup mix, and enough water to cover the vegetables.  The recipe did not call for it, but I also added a can of garbanzos for protein, and a couple of chopped chipotle peppers for a hint of heat.

The recipe says to bring it to a boil and then let it simmer for 25 minutes.  No, no, no.  I let it simmer for hours, until I am ready to eat around four o'clock this afternoon.  A couple big bowls of this will be my dinner for the next three days.  We'll see if I lose a pound or two.

Wednesday, March 15, 2023

A Thorn Among the Roses

I have mentioned before that every month a group of retired teachers from the school district where I used to teach get together for lunch.  For a long time, I didn't attend these gatherings because I thought they were just for the lady retirees.  Some years ago, I was told that I was more than welcome.  So, I now try to come to these luncheons when I am in town.  Occasionally there is another fellow in the group, but usually I am the only male.  

Yesterday we had the March get-together, and, perhaps because of the wintry weather the night before, the turnout was low.  There were only five of us. Sometimes the group includes retirees from the middle school that I don't know, but this small, congenial group was entirely comprised of former colleagues of mine from the high school.

The members of our group, from left to right, were Karen, who taught home-ec; Lucy, a retired math teacher; Alice, another home-ec teacher, and Nancy, another math teacher.  Long-time readers of my blog may recognize Nancy because she and her husband have taken a couple of trip to Mexico with me. 

We had a great time and sat around chatting for a couple of hours.  I won't be able to attend many more of these gatherings.  I will be in Mexico in April, but May's luncheon will be the day after I return.  I hope I will make it to that one.  After that, who knows what my schedule will be as I prepare to make the move to Mexico?

Tuesday, March 14, 2023

Covered in White

Yesterday I told you that it was snowing here in northern Ohio, and that it was starting to stick to the ground.  The forecast said that we could get up to three inches of snow.  Given the number of times that the weather forecasters have been wrong, I was skeptical.  However, last night I heard a sound I had not heard since last December... a snowplow going down the street.

This morning I woke up to find the ground covered in white.  

The table on the patio is my usual gauge for judging how much snow we have received.  It appears that we did indeed receive the predicted three inches, maybe even a bit more.  The street is perfectly clear, however, and I doubt that there is more than an inch on my driveway.  The pavement must have been warmer than the ground, because yesterday afternoon the snow was melting rather than accumulating.  There is no need for me to get out the snowblower.  

I continue to keep my fingers crossed that this will be the last time I see the ground covered with snow this season.  Hey, if my plans to move to Mexico proceed in a timely manner, it could be the last snow I see in a long, long time!

Monday, March 13, 2023

A Bit of Snow

 It has been a very mild winter here in Ohio.  Of course, I missed most of the season since I was in Mexico for the bulk of January and all of February.  However, my friend who housesits for me only had to use the snowblower once during that entire time.  Last weekend we had a "winter weather advisory".  Ha!  All we got was a dusting of snow on the rooftops.

This afternoon I looked out the window and saw that it was snowing and that it was starting to stick to the ground.

The forecast says that we are supposed to get between one and three inches of snow today.  We will see, but even if we get the predicted amount, it won't last long.  By Wednesday it is supposed to be sunny with a high of 42 F.   On Thursday and Friday the highs will be 56 and 57 degrees respectively.  Looking at the long-range forecast there is no significant snow through March 26th.  

Maybe, just maybe, I will make it through April 6th (when I leave again for Mexico) without seeing any more snow. (Fingers crossed, knock on wood.)

Sunday, March 12, 2023

Spring Ahead


This is the weekend when we turn the clocks an hour ahead for Daylight Saving Time.  Unlike some people, the change of one hour forward or back has never really bothered me or my internal clock.  However, changing all the clocks is a bothersome chore.  (Last fall I never got around to changing the clock in my car, so now it finally shows the correct time.)

Mexico did not observe Daylight Saving Time, which they call "summer hour", until 1996.  They decided to follow suit with their northern neighbor because of the country's strong economic ties with the United States.  They changed the clocks, as the U.S. did prior to 2007, the first weekend of April and the last weekend of October.  The country did not alter that schedule when the U.S. decided to extend Daylight Saving Time. (The state of Baja California and some municipalities along the border did follow the new schedule in order to be in synch with the United States.)  That meant that for a few weeks in March / April and in October / November there would be a two-hour time difference between Ohio and Mexico City instead of one.  

Last year President López Obrador proposed a bill to eliminate Daylight Saving Time altogether, and the bill was passed by the Mexican Congress.  (Baja California and border municipalities are still allowed to follow the time changes of their neighbor.)  This means that for SIX months of the year, there will be a two-hour time difference between the U.S. and most of Mexico.

I certainly cannot fault Mexico for doing away with Daylight Saving Time.  However, it will make life a little more inconvenient for me during the time that I am still living in Ohio.  Every evening Alejandro and I talk on Skype.  He usually calls between 7:00 P.M. and 8:00 P.M. Mexican time... between 8:00 and 9:00 here.  Now, unless he changes his routine (and that may not be possible) it could be nearly 10:00 P.M. (Ohio time) before he calls.  I usually start getting ready for bed around 10, and I often turn off the light by 10:30.  I guess I am going to have to keep later hours now.

Saturday, March 11, 2023

The Ring

Alejandro and I purchased our wedding rings in August of last year.  He had found a picture on the internet of a silver wedding band with a textured surface that he liked.  I liked it too, but I was doubtful that we would be able to find something similar in the jewelry shops of Mexico City.

One Saturday we went downtown to Madero Street in the Historic Center.  In colonial times the street was called the Street of the Silversmiths.  It still has numerous "Centros Joyeros" (Jewelers' Centers) that are like mini-malls filled with jewelers' booths.  We walked around several of these "Centros".  Most of the jewelers dealt in gold, and there was nothing similar to what we wanted in the booths that did silver jewelry.  

Finally, someone gave us the address of a person who did custom designs.  He was located in another "Centro Joyero" on Palma Street just a block from the main plaza.  We went to the place and managed to find the jeweler who had a booth upstairs.  Alejandro had the photo of the ring on his cellphone and showed it to the jeweler.  He said that he would be able to do an approximation.  He took our ring sizes.  When he told us the price we were flabbergasted.  We thought at first that he was giving us just the price for doing the original design, but no.  It was the total price for both rings in sterling silver... around 75 U.S. dollars!

By the time that I returned on my next trip, the rings were ready.  We made another trip downtown to pick them up.   They were beautiful and fit us perfectly.   The numbers 925 are stamped inside the rings, indicating that they are 92.5% pure silver... sterling silver. I tucked them away in the apartment until our wedding day on Valentine's Day.

Here's a photo that I took of my ring...

Probably on my next trip, we will take the rings back to the jeweler and have the insides engraved with our wedding date.

We lucked out on an incredibly affordable price, but I absolutely love my ring!

Friday, March 10, 2023

More Wedding Pictures

Last month I posted a few pictures of the civil ceremony in which Alejandro and I were married on Valentine's Day.  I had given my camera to Eduardo, a good friend of Alejandro's, to take some photos for us.  There was also a photographer present, and we ordered pictures from him.  We picked those up the last week of my stay in Mexico City, and Alejandro was able to briefly borrow the photographer's memory stick so that we could also upload the photos to our laptops.

Here are a few more photos of the ceremony...

Here you see the judge who officiated the ceremony.  Alejandro's sister and father are next to us.  I guess we really didn't need to wear face masks, but the sign at the entrance to the registry said that they were required.  Toward the end of the ceremony, we were told to take them off, so there are some photos later of us maskless.

In addition to signatures, our thumbprints were required on the document.  (I don't think that's something that is done in the U.S., is it?)  The ink remained on our thumbs for several days afterward.

For the exchange of the rings, I goofed up and put the ring on Alejandro's right hand.  The judge said, "Shouldn't the ring go on the left hand?"  I don't think it was so much a matter of being nervous, as it was that Alejandro's right hand just seemed closer. 

 Alejandro got it right when putting the ring on my finger.

Alejandro's good friend Eduardo was in attendance.  He got married last year, so his help in guiding us through the process and bureaucracy was invaluable.  (And yes, it was, as you can see by Eduardo's heavy coat and scarf, quite chilly that February morning.  Alejandro and I braved the temperature and just wore our "guayabera" shirts.)

The newly wedded couple William and Alejandro.

I have to say that, now that we are married, it was a little more heart-tugging than usual, when we said our goodbyes at the airport when I returned to Ohio.  Fortunately, it will be less than a month before I return.  I hope that the process of buying the condo in Mexico City and selling my house in Ohio will go smoothly so that I am soon a full-time resident of Mexico.

Tuesday, March 7, 2023

A Card from Switzerland

When I returned from Mexico last week, there was a Christmas card from Switzerland waiting for me.  It was sent by my cousin Vera.  Last year she sent me a card that was an example of "Scherenschnitte", a traditional Swiss art which translates as "scissor cuts".  I had told her how much I liked it, so this Christmas she sent me another one.

"Scherenschnitte" is an art form which dates back to the 16th century.  Beautiful intricate designs are cut by hand out of black paper.  Although the cards are machine-made, they are based on original designs by Esther Gerber, a noted "Scherenschnitte" artist.  I now have two of them.  I plan to have them framed, and to take this bit of Switzerland with me when I make the move to Mexico.

Vielen Dank, Vera! 

Sunday, March 5, 2023

Rain Instead of Snow

I was not around to experience most of winter this year in Ohio.  However, there was not much winter to experience.  During the entire time that I was down in Mexico, my friend Frank who housesits for me only had to use the snowblower once.  There were numerous days in which the high temperature was in the 40s, 50s, or even in a few instances the 60s F.  Instead of snow, it frequently rained, and when we have heavy rain, the back yards usually flood.

On the day that I returned, the high temperature had been a balmy 61 degrees.  Last Friday it started raining lightly in the late morning, and continued throughout the afternoon, becoming heavier as the day progressed.  By evening had lakes in the front and the back yards along my street.  Much of the water had receded by the next day, but yesterday my neighbor still had a lake... and it is still there this morning.

 It's fortunate that all that precipitation was not snow, or we would have been buried!

The long-range forecast calls for the possibility of some snow later in the coming week.  But since the high temperature each day is going to be above freezing, I doubt that there will be any accumulation at all.

Saturday, March 4, 2023

Flying Back (Part Two)

My flight from Mexico City to Washington Dulles Airport landed twenty minutes early.  I have never particularly cared for Dulles Airport, and I usually try to avoid it.  However, I was pleasantly surprised that there was no wait whatsoever to go through immigration, even though flights from Zurich and Frankfurt had recently arrived.  That might be because international passengers whose final destination is Washington are put on buses to go to a different immigration area.  However, once I passed through immigration and customs, going through security seemed very disorganized with a long, slow-moving line.  I will say that we were not required to take off our shoes.  They also had new x-ray machines that looked like something out of a sci-fi movie, and we were not required to remove our laptops from our carry-ons.

I still had over an hour and a half before my flight to Cleveland was to begin boarding.  I headed to the concourse where my plane was to depart, and fortunately there was a United Club lounge.  I popped in and had a free lunch there.

I was at the gate for my flight about fifteen minutes before scheduled boarding.  The plane had just arrived, and a seemingly endless stream of passengers from the previous flight were exiting.  Then they had to clean the plane.  I really didn't think that we would be able to board and take off on time, but somehow we did.  We were up in the air and making the quick, one-hour trip to Cleveland.

It was twilight by the time we began our descent, but I could still clearly see the shoreline of Lake Erie.

There was no snow in Ohio.  The high temperature that day had reached an unseasonably mild 60 F.  However, I looked down and saw an area of snow.

It had to be one of the ski resorts to the south of Cleveland.  They were obviously using their artificial snow-making machines.

In moments we were over the eastern suburbs of Cleveland.

Then the break wall of Cleveland harbor and Burke Lakefront Airport were visible.

The small airport serves mainly private aircraft, some cargo planes and charter flights.

Then we were directly over downtown Cleveland.  Although the football season is over, the lights were on in the Cleveland Browns Stadium.

We continued in a southwestward direction.  The suburb of Lakewood to the west of Cleveland was visible, and we were making our final approach to Cleveland Hopkins Airport, which is about 12 miles from downtown Cleveland, and just 4.5 miles from my house.

My friend Frank was there at the airport to meet me and drive me home.  Now I am in Ohio for just over month until I return again to Mexico.

Friday, March 3, 2023

Flying Back (Part One)

My good luck with airline travel continued on Wednesday when I flew back to Ohio from Mexico City.

Alejandro drove me to the airport around 7:00 A.M.  In the morning light we could see the vague outlines of the volcanoes Popocatépetl and Iztaccíhuatl through the haze, but by the time I boarded my plane they had disappeared into the smog.  Usually, we have breakfast together at one of the airport restaurants before I head through security and go to my gate.  However, Alejandro had to take his father to a doctor's appointment, so we said our farewells after I had checked in.  I had plenty of time, so after I went through security, I went into the United Club lounge and had a decent breakfast there for free.  My flight boarded and pulled away from the gate on time.  We didn't have to wait as long as usual on the runway for our turn to take off.  There were only three planes ahead of us.

From the tarmac, you can see behind the airport terminal the hill which is known as the "Peñón de los Baños" (Rock of the Baths).  I just did a bit of research on that craggy hill which I see every time that I arrive or leave from Mexico City International Airport.  The hill was once a small island in the lake that once covered most of the valley.  It is the site of thermal springs that were visited by Aztec nobility including the Emperor Moctezuma (Montezuma).   The mineral waters, considered to be of therapeutic value continued to attract notable visitors, such as Emperor Maximilian and his wife Carlota, through the 19th century.  A bathhouse drawing water from the springs still exists there, although the neighborhood is not a very desirable area today.  

We took off into the hazy skies above the vast metropolis.

Can you spot below us the ruins of the ancient city of Teotihuacan situated about 30 miles north of Mexico City?

Zooming in with the camera, you can see running diagonally from the left the so-called Avenue of the Dead, the main street of the city.  Halfway along the avenue is the Pyramid of the Sun (one of the largest in the world) and at its end the Pyramid of the Moon.

Before long we were flying past the coast of Mexico and out over the Gulf.  This time I was not going by way of Houston or Chicago, but through Washington, D.C.  Thus, our flight path took a more easterly route, and we were over the Gulf of Mexico for a longer period of time.

When we came over land once again, judging by the flatness of the terrain, and the many lakes and canals, and from the flight path shown in the airline magazine, I suspect that we were over Florida. 

Soon the clouds completely obscured the view below us.  It was not until we had begun our descent to Dulles International Airport that the clouds broke.  We flew over the Virginia suburbs of Washington.  The airport was visible in the distance.

We circled around the airport, and flew over a river (which, thanks to Google Maps, I later verified as the Potomac).  I suppose that if I had been on the other side of the plane, I might have been able to see Washington, D.C.

Rounding back, we approached Dulles Airport from the east.

We arrived at the gate about twenty minutes ahead of schedule.  I had a layover of more than two hours before the final leg of my journey back to Ohio.