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Archive for the ‘Casita Colibrí’ Category

Four years ago today, we were marching in the streets of Oaxaca — part of a worldwide post inauguration day response to the dark days we could see coming following the results of the US election. Alas, it was far worse than our imaginations could take us. What a difference four years makes! At yesterday’s inauguration we watched as a young woman in a dazzling yellow coat, with her brilliant words and luminous spirit, captured the dark and replaced it with trust in our power to bring light to an imperfect country. Thank you Amanda Gorman for your inspiring words and presence.

When day comes, we ask ourselves, where can we find light in this never ending shade?

And so we lift our gaze, not to what stands between us, but what stands before us

For there was always light.
If only we’re brave enough to see it.
If only we’re brave enough to be it.

Quotations from The Hill We Climb, a poem written and read by Amanda Gorman at the inauguration of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamela Harris.

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When I was twelve years old, I met one of my (still) best friends. While my family’s garden consisted of roses, camellias, fruit trees, colorful annuals, and lawn and our indoor plants were limited to African violets, hers had Japanese inspired landscaping outside and tropical plants inside. After all, they had been to Hawaii! The orchids and anthurium seemed so exotic and I was impressed. Eventually, over the years, orchids became one of my houseplants of choice but, for some reason (maybe cost?), I’ve never had an anthurium until now.

While shopping for poinsettias last month at my favorite seasonal plant pop-up shop (1/2 block up from Mercado Sánchez Pascuas on Tinoco y Palacios), I saw this anthurium (anterio en español), the price was 1/5th the cost in el norte, and couldn’t resist.

My goal is to find a talavera pot for the anthurium (aka, flamingo flower, tailflower, painter’s palette, and laceleaf). In the meantime, set against my beautiful old hand-carved and painted desk from Michoacán, my Christmas gift to myself brings a smile — much needed during these challenging times. And, according to Wikipedia, it is “effective in removing formaldehyde, xylene, toluene, and ammonia from the air” — though I suspect that’s not a problem here at Casita Colibrí.

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Kalisa, my many times mentioned friend, neighbor, and cook extraordinaire, outdid herself in December.

December 4, 2020 – Chicken cutlets
December 12, 2020 – Honoring Hanukkah with sweet and savory latkes and rugelach
December 24, 2020 – Shrimp fettuccine on Christmas Eve
December 25, 2020 – Socially distanced Christmas dining on the terrace
December 25, 2020 – Pork loin for Christmas dinner
December 25, 2020 – Glazed carrots with mint
December 25, 2020 – Polenta
December 25, 2020 – My contribution of a garden greens salad
December 25, 2020 – The piece de resistance, Kalisa’s poached pear and frangipane tart
December 31, 2020 – New Year’s Eve dinner of paella with shrimp, chicken, sausage, asparagus, and fresh peas

It was a challenging but definitely delicious year!

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Hindsight is the ability to understand, after something has happened, why or how it was done and how it might have been done better.

2020 was a year that most of us would like to forget but that will probably remain vividly etched in our memory banks for the rest of our lives. It was a year our worlds became smaller and forced us to see what was before us. It was a year that we will continue to examine and try to understand. It was a year that has important lessons to teach about who we are individually and collectively.

January 2020 – Visiting very dear friends and getting my Pacific Ocean fix at Avila Beach, California.
February 2020 – New resident in Casita Colibrí’s garden, an Argiope spider.
March 2020 – One of the last calendas of the year, graduation of public accountants.
April 2020 – Morning visitors at Casita Colibrí.
May 2020 – Sunday morning walk past the Xochimilco Aqueduct Arches.
June 2020 – Morning view from Casita Colibrí of Templo de San Felipe Neri.
July 2020 – Balcony garden of greens at Casita Colibrí.
August 2020 – Rainy season morning view of Basilica of Nuestra Señora de Soledad from Casita Colibrí.
September 2020 – Monday morning walk on calle Garcia Vigil, “Together in (healthy) distance.”
October 2020 – Susana Trilling discusses the foods of Day of the Dead at Casa Colonial.
November 2020 – Sunset view from Casita Colibrí of the Basilica of Nuestra Señora de Soledad.
December 2020 – Sunday morning encounter with the new sculpture on the Alcalá, “Agaves Contemporáneos Oaxaqueños” presented by the Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Oaxaca (MACO).

With a renewed appreciation for the small things that bring joy and give life meaning, on this New Year’s Eve, I wish you all health, peace, and joy in 2021.

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What an unusual yet lovely (and delicious) Thanksgiving 2020 was.

Cranberry/pear relish bubbling on the stove.

After the fact, I realized this was only the second Thanksgiving I’ve shared with just one other person. Childhood dinners were filled with parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. Even the Thanksgiving I spent in Denmark, the international school I attended prepared a turkey with all the fixin’s dinner — to the delight of the American students and curiosity of the other international students and Danes. Once married, we hosted or joined family and/or friends — and that has been my tradition ever since, even here in Oaxaca.

Sage dressing with whole wheat bread, celery, onions, and carrots.

Keeping Covid-19 protocols in mind, Kalisa, my (now famous) friend, neighbor, and cocinera extraordinaire and I decided we would persevere in an attempt to carry on with an albeit downsized celebration of just the two of us on my terrace. For the main course, we ruled out turkey, discarded chicken as not special, and settled on repeating the success of rabbit — concluding it would go well with my cranberry/pear relish and sage dressing. And, who knows? The indigenous peoples may have proffered rabbit to the starving and clueless foreigners.

Roast rabbit à la Kalisa.

So, we made our own pilgrimage up to Pochote Mercado Orgánico in Colonia Reforma to again purchase the criollo rabbit Kalisa would be preparing. A couple of days later, at Mercado IV Centenario, we happened upon camotes/sweet potatoes to be used for her “pumpkin” cheesecake. Unlike my first several Thanksgivings here, when bags of fresh cranberries could only be found at Mercado Hidalgo, I was able to purchase all the ingredients for my cranberry/pear relish at Mercado Benito Juárez. As for the dressing, I still had some Bell’s Seasoning brought from the USA a couple of years ago, and the rest was easily found. Looking at our menu, it occurred to me that perhaps we needed something green. That was easily solved with some baby lettuce from my garden (alas, no photo).

Pumpkin cheesecake with caramel topping.

And so it was, a Thanksgiving where two friends gave thanks for our very present blessings — friendship, health, abundance, and being welcomed into the beautiful and loving arms of Oaxaca.

Two friends giving thanks on a rooftop terrace in Oaxaca.

By the way, the place settings were for photo-op purposes only. We retired with filled plates and glasses of wine to the south end of the terrace where we could sit and eat 8 feet apart.

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It’s been a whole month since I’ve delved into the food porn photo archive. With Thanksgiving only two days away, what better time for a few of my dinners from the past ten days.

Rabbit served on a bed of fettuccine.
Eggplant, anchovy, and goat cheese pizza topped with arugula.
Roasted chicken served with tortillas (of course), guacamole, pickled red onions, and green salsa.

And, what better time to express my gratitude for having such a great and talented friend and neighbor who delights in sharing her culinary artistry with others. ¡Muchisimas gracias Kalisa!

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These are strange days leading up to our departed coming to call while we are living in the time of Covid-19. With public activities canceled, thus no nightly calendas (parades) filling the streets and our ears, and fewer tourists, Oaxaca is experiencing more peace and tranquility this Day of the Dead season — albeit laced with a touch of melancholy and anxiety.

Masked and shielded, I braved the mostly local crowds south of the zócalo, to shop for cempasuchil (marigolds), cresta de gallo (cockscomb), apples, mandarin oranges, peanuts and pecans, chocolate, and pan de muertos (Day of the Dead bread) — but it wasn’t nearly as much fun as years past.

However, the joy returned when I unwrapped photographs of my parents, grandparents, and other loved ones; selected some of their favorite things to put on my ofrenda; placed the fruit, nuts, bread, and chocolate among the photos; positioned candles, flowers, and incense; and poured my departed a copita (little cup) of water and another of mezcal — all to beckon, entertain, and sustain them during their brief stay.

I’m looking forward to a more personal and reflective Día de Muertos this year.

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Last night’s socially distanced dining on the terrace featured pozole!

Bowls of pozole with garnishes of avocado, cilantro with onions, cabbage, salsa, limes, and peppers waiting to be added.

My kind of comfort food. Thanks, Kalisa!

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Given that the socially distanced dining on the terrace ice was broken earlier in the month, the entertaining continued with the arrival of L, my BFF since we were twelve. Kalisa — neighbor, friend, and cocinera extraordinaria – rose to the occasion and the three of us have been eating extremely well.

October 6, 2020 – Chicken and black bean memelas, huitlachoche and corn empanadas, salsas, and sautéed squash.
October 8, 2020 – Heirloom tomatoes, pickled onions, and queso fresco, accompanied by Parmesan Crisps hand carried from California.
October 8, 2020 – Guacamole, pickled onions, salsas, and peanuts.
October 8, 2020 – Tostadas of chicken and pork with spinach and guacamole.
October 14, 2020 – Chicken mole accompanied by rice and black beans.
October 18, 2020 – Salad of cucumber, onion, and peppers.
October 18, 2020 – Squash, fresh basil, huitlacoche, and cheese lasagna.

Lest you be concerned about the intervening dinners, the quantities were huge, doggie bags were taken back to our respective apartments, and leftovers continue to be happily consumed.

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Last week, after seven months of Casita Colibrí being a visitor free zone, friends from California came to dine. Socially distanced seating was set up at the south end of the terrace.

The counter at the north end of the terraced was used as the staging area for food and drink.

We took turns selecting the fabulous fare prepared by my previously mentioned friend and neighbor, Kalisa.

Blue corn tortillas, guacamole, cucumber, and salsas to start.
Huitlacoche quesadillas.
Poblano chile strips with goat cheese.
Chicken wings.

Masks stayed on, except when eating, and early evening quickly turned into night as we talked and laughed and enjoyed each other’s company. It had been so long!

Kalisa, the visiting couple, and I had so much fun, we did it again two nights later. And, yes, there was mezcal both nights!

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The flowers within and mountains beyond.

“I am large; I contain multitudes.” — Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass

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This morning as dawn broke, a pitahaya bloomed in Oaxaca. Tipped off by my neighbor, I ran upstairs with my camera — before coffee, no less!

The eight inches across flower was definitely worth it because, alas, by late morning this beauty will have wilted. It will dry, eventually drop off, and fruit will begin to form on the section hiding behind the flower and from which it emerged.

In a few months, there will be a red luscious dragon fruit, like this one on a neighboring stalk. I miss the pitahayas that used to climb the chain link fence surrounding my terrace.

By the way, if you are confused about the difference between pitahaya and pitaya (as I used to be), this page from the Mexican government gives the most complete explanation I’ve seen. It’s worth running through a translator if you don’t read Spanish.

My entry in Cee’s Flower of the Day photo challenge.

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Up until last week, under semáforo rojo (red stoplight), dining at Oaxaca’s much celebrated restaurants had been prohibited and food-to-go became a new and popular option. The Facebook group, Taste Of Oaxaca! soon was filled with restaurant takeout and/or delivery menu options. It was really quite wonderful to see how creative restaurants and chefs became in trying to maintain their businesses, keep staff employed, and meet the needs of their clientele. However, I was blessed with an alternative — mi amiga y vecina (my friend and neighbor), Kalisa, whose passion is cooking and sharing her flavorful fare.

While living in the age of Covid-19, at least I’ve been eating well — and this is just a small sample! By the way, rumor has it that tonight I will be going up and over the rooftop with my bowl in hand for pozole rojo. Yummm…

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When the rains come and the three African Tulip trees (Spathodea campanulata, Tulipán africano, Flame trees, Flame of the Forest) in my apartment complex begin blooming, even grey days are brightened.

As the name suggests, Tulipán africano are native to Africa and I was first captivated by them in the early 1980s when I watched the PBS series, The Flame Trees of Thika, based on the Elspeth Huxley memoir about her early years in Kenya.

Beginning the late 1800s, these ornamental beauties were introduced to other parts of the world — thriving and even becoming invasive in many areas of the tropics.

Bursting with brilliance and providing food and shelter to a multitude of hummingbirds battling for territory and mates, these creations of Mother Nature always beckon me to stop, gaze, and marvel.

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When the outings are few and far between and limited to walking distance, I’m appreciating the views from and around Casita Colibrí even more.

June 3, 2020 – Templo de San Felipe Neri in early morning

June 3, 2020 – Jasmine in the afternoon

June 4, 2020 –  Wind chimes in the late afternoon

June 5, 2020 – Crocosmia around noon

June 5, 2020 – Looking southeast over the city in early evening

Be safe and well and look for the beauty.

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