Friday, March 31, 2023

An Even Earlier Finish

My readers already know that every year I paint a picture that I use for my Christmas card.  I usually do the painting in the summer.  I take it to a local printer who makes the cards.  I get them made out before I leave on my October / November trip to Mexico, and when I return around Thanksgiving, the cards are ready to send out.

This year I started working on the painting even earlier than usual.  You see, I was wondering how I was going to send out Christmas cards if I am going to permanently move to Mexico sometime in 2023.  The postal service in Mexico is horrendous and makes the U.S. postal service, even at its very worst, look like "Speedy González".  My friend Gayle came up with a solution, at least for this year.  She told me to do my painting early, get the cards printed, make out the cards, and put stamps on them.  Then, before I make my final move, give them to her, and she would put them in the mail around Thanksgiving.

Yesterday I completed the painting.  Of course, the subject of the painting is always a secret.  Usually it is based on a photo that I have taken on my travels.  I will say, however, that the subject this year is something different.

As it turns out, I think I have found a solution for the mail problem in Mexico.  I found a private company that provides mail delivery, and I think that they offer service in both directions.  For this year, however, I will do as Gayle suggested.

Thursday, March 30, 2023

Dolls from Mexico

You may recall that I have been regularly sending Mexican dolls to Amy, the daughter of a former teaching colleague of mine.  When she was little, I would always bring back dolls from my travels for her.  Here is a photo taken decades ago.  Amy is sitting on my lap and holding a toy "guanaco" (a South American animal similar to a llama) which I bought for her on a trip to Peru and Ecuador.


Now that Amy has two daughters of her own, I have resumed the tradition, and I am sending dolls to a second generation.  Last week I took two dolls to the UPS store to be boxed and shipped to their home in Maryland.

I purchased the one to the right a few trips ago at a handicraft fair in Mexico City.  (I might have even posted a photo of it on the blog at that time.)  It was handmade by a lady from the state of Michoacán.

The one to the left was bought on my latest trip to Mexico City.  I was in the district of Xochimilco on the city's far south side.  As I walked down the street, I passed a barber shop that had a bunch of crocheted dolls on display in the window.  I went inside.  No one was getting their hair cut, but there were more dolls for sale, and a woman sitting and crocheting another one.  There was a wide variety, from cartoon characters to dolls in traditional Mexico attire.  Her work is superb, and the next time I am in Xochimilco I will look for that barber shop again.

Last night Amy sent me an email to let me know that the package arrived, and that today her daughters will open their present.

Tuesday, March 28, 2023

More Spring Flowers

When I returned from Mexico at the beginning of March, the daffodils in my back yard had already begun to sprout.  They are now in full bloom.

Sunday, March 26, 2023

Easter's on its Way

Most years my April trip to Mexico coincides with Easter, and we have an Easter egg hunt for Alejandro's nephew Ezra.  Ezra is now approaching adolescence, and I wasn't sure if he would think it too childish.  However, he has always enjoyed the egg hunt in the past, and Alejandro said to go ahead and bring the plastic eggs, the basket and the candy.  At one of our local supermarkets, I have always found unique Easter baskets.  The baskets this year were cute, but rather small.  They wouldn't hold that many eggs, so I bought two.  I also bought a pair of bunny ears.  If Ezra doesn't want to wear them, I will.

Alejandro said not to bring so much candy, so I only bought one bag of wrapped mini-chocolate bars.  I will put chocolates in half the eggs.  In the other half I will put foreign coins that I have accumulated through the years on my travels.  Some of them are Mexican coins that are now out of circulation.

So, once again, in Alejandro's house we will celebrate Easter in a "gringo" fashion!

Friday, March 24, 2023

Lonely Blossoms

I used to have a lot of crocus planted in my flower beds.  They were a cheerful sign of early spring.  However, most of them have been eaten by critters (probably squirrels or chipmunks).  Now, only a few scattered bulbs have survived.  I noticed these blossoms a few days ago.


Wednesday, March 22, 2023

More from the Tudors

Here are some more items from the exhibit on the Tudors at the Cleveland Museum of Art...

Henry VIII had a collection of around 2500 tapestries in his various palaces.  This one is part of a series of ten which tells the Biblical story of David and Bathsheba.

A terracotta bust of John Fisher, the Bishop of Rochester.  He was beheaded by Henry VIII for criticizing the King's divorce from Catherine of Aragon and his marriage to Anne Boleyn.

Field armor of the 3rd Earl of Cumberland.  Among its engraved decorations are back-to-back E's, the symbol of Elizabeth I.


The image of Queen Elizabeth on a jeweled portrait locket made of enameled gold encrusted with diamonds and rubies.


A miniature portrait of Sir Thomas More, who was beheaded by Henry VIII for not supporting the King's divorce and break from the Catholic Church.

There are no undisputed portraits of Henry VIII's ill-fated second wife Anne Boleyn.  However, this sketch by Hans Holbein the Younger might be of her.

Henry VIII's only son, Edward, ascended the throne upon Henry's death.  Edward VI was only nine years old when he became King, but he died at the age of fifteen. 

A portrait by Hans Holbein the Younger of Jane Seymour, the third wife of Henry VIII.  Jane gave the King the son that he had longed for, but, within days after the childbirth, she died at the age of 28.

Hercule-Francois, the Duke of Alencon, was involved for over a decade in marriage negotiations with Elizabeth I and sent her this portrait of himself.  Needless to say, the negotiations never led to marriage.

In this portrait Queen Elizabeth is holding a sieve.  It is an allusion to a Roman legend of a woman who proved her virginity by carrying water in a sieve.

"The Triumph of Hercules" is another tapestry from Henry VIII's vast collection.

This is a portrait of the first Moroccan ambassador to the English court.  In 1600 the sultan of Morocco tried to form an alliance with Elizabeth against Spain.  The ambassador's six month stay in London created a fascination with North Africa... one result being Shakespeare's drama "Othello".

An engraved sardonyx cameo portraying Queen Elizabeth.

This portrait, although painted late in her reign, shows Elizabeth as a young woman of almost mythological powers.  She holds a rainbow.  The serpent on her sleeve is a symbol of wisdom.  Her cloak is decorated with eyes and ears, implying that she was all-seeing and all-hearing.

This excellent exhibit is at the Cleveland Museum of Art through May14th.

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.