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Archive for the ‘Casita Colibrí’ Category

Today is Día de los Tres Reyes Magos — a day the children of Mexico receive gifts from the Three Kings (aka, Three Wise Men, Magi). Alas, I am in quarantine at home with a possible case of the Omicron variant of Covid-19. I say “possible” because, though the rapid antigen test result was negative, Emerging Data Raise Questions About Antigen Tests and Nasal Swabs. Plus, three days after attending an event where I took off my mask to eat and drink, I began experiencing all the symptoms — stuffy nose, sore throat, headache, dry cough, and no energy. Ugh! Fortunately, I am double vaxed and boosted, and after two days of feeling miserable, I am beginning to feel somewhat human again.

Instead of greeting the Three Kings on the street and watching them bring smiles and gifts to the children of Oaxaca, I will content myself with keeping company with my Melchor, Baltasar, and Gaspar — woven of palm fronds in the Mixteca region of Oaxaca. And, I will treasure the gift of wonderful friends and neighbors who have kept my larder stocked and generously offered their help while I’m confined to quarters. They are my reinas y reyes (queens and kings)!

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It’s been a crazy busy visit to el norte gratefully sprinkled with some fun with family and friends. However, now I’m getting ready for my return to Oaxaca and the hummingbirds in my Jalatlaco ‘hood.

The last image is a commissioned watercolor by Raul Baños hanging in my living room. How many colibríes (hummingbirds) can you see?

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I’m in el norte visiting family, getting my Pfizer booster, and seeing friends. Today, it’s chilly and grey, so I’m letting the crystals I hung in the new Casita Colibrí’s entry window cast their magic.

In morning, as the sun pours in, they paint rainbows all over my home.

And, I’m singing along to the John Sebastian tune, I’ll Paint Rainbows All Over Your Blues. (Click the YouTube link, it will make you smile.)

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Day of the Dead altars and their offerings to the departed vary from region to region and, within those regions, from family to family. Ofrendas (offerings) are an integral part of Día de Muertos. They are a beacon to the departed, an ephemeral work of art, and the sum of their lovingly chosen parts. As you can see from the photos below from several in Barrio de Jalatlaco, even on public display, they are intensely personal and creative.

Galería Shadai – Flowers, papel picado, candles, incense, pan de muertos, fruit, nuts, a casserole, and beverages.

And, there is a catrina tapete de arena (sand carpet) made of sand, beans, and flowers.

However, the only photo is of Maestro Francisco Toledo placed on a side pedestal.

Los Pilares Hotel and Restaurant – Flowers, papel picado, catrinas and catrins, candles, fruit, pan de muertos, and beverages.

And, there is a beautiful floral arch.

No photos of loved ones, but it’s a love story to the state of Oaxaca.

Family ofrenda – 5 de mayo at the corner of La Alianza. Family photos of the departed take center stage with papel picado, cempasúchitl (marigolds), and skeletons playing supporting roles.

Then there are those magnificent floral candles like one sees in Teotitlán del Valle.

And, lest the departed can’t find their way home in the greatly expanded city, an old photo and skeletons await outside the altar alcove to show the way.

Last but not least, my altar and offerings. It was a creative challenge to set up in the new Casita Colibrí.

It’s smaller than previous years, but I have figured out a way to make it bigger and better next year.

A yellow (color of death in pre-hispanic southern Mexico) tablecloth; papel picado (cut tissue paper) signifying the union between life and death; cempasúchitl (marigolds) and flor de muerto from the Sierra Norte, their scent to guide the spirits; and cresta de gallo (cockscomb) to symbolize mourning. There is salt to make sure the souls stay pure and chocolate, peanuts, pecans, apples, mandarin oranges, and pan de muertos (Day of the Dead bread) to nourish them. The sweet smell of copal incense and its smoke help guide my loved ones to the fiesta I have prepared for them. There is water to quench their thirst, as they travel between worlds, not to mention mezcal and cervesa (beer). And, there are the tangible remembrances of my departed — photos and some of their favorite things.

With candles lit and incense burning, I’m loving it and hoping my very dearly departed will find it warm, nourishing, and welcoming.

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After a twelve year wait, my Pachypodium lamerei has bloomed! Though not a palm, you may know it as a Madagascar Palm.

First thing every morning, while the coffee is brewing, I go up on the rooftop to wish my plants a “buenos días” and check to see if the water heater pilot is still lit — but I digress.

Two and a half weeks ago my Pachypodium lamerei surprised me with its first ever flower.

And the blooms keep coming. I think it likes its new home!

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Pink sky at night, sailors’ delight.
Pink sky in the morning, sailors take warning.

What about a weird sky at dusk?

View from the rooftop — looking northwest, not so weird.
View from the rooftop — looking east was ominous.
View from the rooftop — looking southeast was seriously eerie and beautiful.

Last night’s sky over Oaxaca was the talk of locals on Facebook. Rain came an hour later.

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Yesterday’s view from my front door…

A late afternoon deluge. This is the rainy season in Oaxaca!

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With storms to the north and storms to the south, Oaxaca is stuck in the middle. And the rain keeps falling. Sometimes, the sun peeks through the clouds…

On the terrace – August 22, 2021 – early evening.
View from the terrace – August 22, 2021 – early evening.
View from the terrace – August 22, 2021 – early evening.

And, sometimes it doesn’t…

View from the terrace – August 25, 2021 – midday.
View from the terrace – August 25, 2021 – midday
View from the terrace – August 22, 2021 – midday.

Sometimes it rains in the late afternoon, sometimes at night, and sometimes (like today) the rains come on and off throughout the day. ‘Tis the season.

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If it’s Friday, in addition to flowers, it is the day a produce stand sets up just a few blocks away. Mi amiga Kalisa and I stumbled on it during one of our Friday morning walks and little did I know that eight months later I would move nearby and it would become my weekly fruit and veggie vendor.

Weekly produce stand on Privada Lic. Primo Verdad.

The stand has both imported and local fruits and veggies. Three weeks ago I couldn’t resist some of the freshest looking huitlacoche I’ve seen.

Huitlacoche sauteed with onions, garlic, dried chiles, and verdolaga (purslane) — the latter from my garden.

For the uninitiated, huitlacoche (aka, corn smut) is a fungus (Ustilago maydis) that can attack ears of corn during the rainy season. Here in Mexico it is a delicacy. I sauteed it with some other goodies (see above photo) and used it, along with quesillo (Oaxacan string cheese), to fill an omelette.

Quesillo and huitlacoche omelette garnished with sliced avocado.

One would never guess that, as a child, I was a picky eater!

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Oh, who are the people in your neighborhood?
In your neighborhood?
In your neighborhood?
Say, who are the people in your neighborhood?
The people that you meet each day

It’s Friday and I wanted to introduce you to my aforementioned flower vendor. His name is Moises and he also sells sprigs of herbs.

Today I bought two bunches of agapanthus and one of romero (rosemary). And, the Sesame Street song, People in Your Neighborhood, keeps spinning around my brain and singing in my heart.

Well, they’re the people that you meet
When you’re walking down the street
They’re the people that you meet each day
.

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One of the delights of my new and improved Casita Colibrí home is that it is located in a real neighborhood — one with the feel of a small town. Most everything I need is available within a few blocks. Then there are the vendors! They traverse the cobblestone streets plying their wares — the gas trucks with their distinctive horns, moos, and jingles blasting from loud speakers, the guy shouting “tamalestamalestamales” so fast that it’s hard to understand at first, the paletas (Mexican popsicle-like frozen treat) vendor pushing his cart and calling “palEtas,” and the flower seller who, after I happened to be at the apartment complex entrance and bought agapanthus and a few lilies, doesn’t even yell “flores” when he arrives every Friday in front of the gate, he now just rings my buzzer.

This week, I bought two bunches of alstroemeria.

The previous week, it was two dozen long-stemmed yellow roses.

The quality is excellent — the roses lasted almost an entire week!

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This morning: Four Night Blooming Cereus flowers and one seriously busy bee!

Life in the rooftop garden.

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When last we left Casita Colibrí’s garden, it had weathered Moving days and the plants were Surviving and thriving wherever they had landed at their new home.

Much to the movers’ relief, some (though, not a lot!) of the plants were to remain on the ground floor. With those, it was within my artistic ability to create an entryway and to arrange the palms and other shade-loving plants in my new apartment’s atrium.

However, the landscaping on the rooftop, where the majority of the plants landed, was left to the imagination — as I had neither the strength nor the skill. Consequently, two and a half weeks ago, under a blazing hot and unrelenting sun, my friend and excellent landscaper Jose Ruiz Garcia and his nephew came over to move, position, and re-position trees and succulents and shrubs — oh my!

Most mornings it’s now where I begin my day. With coffee in hand, I cautiously wend my way up the narrow spiral staircase to commune with my plants, listen to the birds sing and chatter, and enjoy this beautiful and tranquil garden that Jose has created. It’s also a perfect setting to sip a glass of wine as the sun sets.

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Many of my View From Casita Colibrí regular readers have expressed concern regarding how the garden survived the move. I want to assure you, though it desperately needs landscaping, the plants are surviving and thriving in their new home.

Flor de Mayo
Night Blooming Cereus
Cayenne pepper
Crown of Thorns
Madagascar Jasmine
Buddha belly plant (Jatropha podagrica)

Methinks it is, in no small part, due to our daily late afternoon downpours. It is the rainiest rainy season since 2010 — at least that I can remember!

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Yes, that is moving days, plural! However, neither rain nor breakdowns nor dark of night kept Casita Colibrí (the name moved, too) from moving twelve years of furniture, art and artesanía, kitchenware, clothing, books, and massive container garden to its new home.

Day one began at 4:00 PM and consisted of four trips and a little rain to move from the old casita to the new — hauling furniture, boxes, and some of the smaller plants. Some of it was carried down the dicey stairs and some went over the balcony. Needless to say, the crew of five, plus yours truly, were worn out when we called it quits at 10:00 PM.

With all the furniture ensconced in its new home, the task of day two (postponed a few days due to mechanical issues with the truck) was to move the trees, their ginormous pots, the chimenea, and worm-rich barrels of soil that I have been cultivating for several years. It wound up taking two trips and almost four hours to lower the plants, etc. from one rooftop and then hoist them up to another. Oh, and did I mention, having to detour several blocks due to an accident? Another day of sheer exhaustion!

However, when all is said and done, everything arrived safe and sound, save for one cracked pot. Of course, that doesn’t count the sore backs and the revenge of cactus thorns. Willie Delfín and his crew were amazing.

Now the decorating and landscaping fun begins!

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