Tag Archives: Mexico

Our Family’s Acme Juicer

“Old Faithful”

I always feel, when I pull this bad boy out of the cupboard, that we’re part of the Bugs Bunny/Roadrunner Hour. Acme was always the brand that the Roadrunner featured and it always puts a smile on my face when I use it.

My parents bought this centrifugal juicer back in the 50’s – sometime after my brother, George, was born in 1956 and before I arrived in 1959. Lots of fruit and vegetables have been juiced in this machine and I am so grateful to have it with us in Cabo.

Getting the juicer here was no small feat. It’s heavy, and I mean REALLY heavy and there was no way that it was ever going to be part of my luggage. Mom’s neighbors and friends, Rob and Kathy, drove down every year from Alberta to Vicente Guerrero, a small puebla located on Highway 1, approximately 175 south of Tijuana, Mexico. They come, at their own expense, to do missionary work at the orphanage located there. We admire their commitment and selflessness very much. Anyway, Rob and Kathy agreed to stow boxes for me for three different years so that I could get some of my heavier articles here. The Acme juicer arrived last winter and we were so grateful to receive it.

After my parents bought it, my Dad belonged to a health club that had a steam room. Dad loved onions and decided to make onion juice for himself using the Acme juicer. It seemed like a good idea until he went to the steam room after drinking the juice. One by one, every single man got up and left. It finally dawned on Dad that the onion juice was coming through his pores and he stunk out the other steam room users. They say that a skunk smells his own smell last! I guess that was true in this situation.

My Mom processed high bush cranberries in that juicer and so much more over the years. One of the highlights when I was a kid was the treat of fresh carrot juice when we dug up our garden. I loved carrot juice then and I absolutely still love it now!

Some years ago, the lug nut in the centre of the machine stripped out and I was desperate to find a replacement. The internet is a wonderful thing as I located a parts provider in Minneapolis, MN, who sent me the part I needed to keep the juicer going for a few more decades (this machine was definitely made to LAST!)!

The other day I dug out “Old Faithful” and did up a batch of juice using fresh organic carrots and beets from our local market, ginger, apple and cucumber that we grew in our Tower Garden, ginger and apple. It was absolutely delicious and transported me to those years on the farm when we made our harvest carrot juice in the fall.

Thanks, Mom (and Rob and Kathy), for finding a way to send this treasure and piece of family history to its new home in Mexico!

Synchronicity

Synchronicity

Yesterday, June 20, was the birthday of two beautiful young friends of mine who are both, ironically, named Crystal. Not a common name, and I only realized last year that they shared the same birthday. One of the definitions of the word “crystal” is glass of fine quality with a high degree of brilliance. Change the word “glass” to “woman” and it perfectly defines both of these amazing ladies.

Crystal #1 is a brilliant jeweller in San Miguel de Allende in Mexico that I met in Puerto Vallarta many years ago. She is talented, resourceful, passionate and someone whom I admire and love very much. She became my second unofficially “adopted” daughter about fifteen years ago. The distance between us has kept us from actually seeing one another in person very often, but we stay connected and always pick up exactly where we left off.

Crystal #1

Crystal #1

Crystal #2 is a wonderful young woman whom I met at a major oil and gas company in Calgary where we were both working. She moved to a smaller city in Alberta to continue her work in a petroleum-related business until a call back to the land took her back to her rural roots in Saskatchewan to fulfill her dream to take over her family’s farm.

Crystal #2

Crystal #2

I bring these young women up and the topic of synchronicity because my life seems to be surrounded by so much of it. Perhaps some of us are just more aware of these coincidences than others, or perhaps some of us actually experience these occurrences more frequently.

I was travelling from JFK in New York to Calgary yesterday and met a delightful young woman, Karen, from northern Germany, who has been living and working in Canada as an au pair. We struck up a conversation while waiting for the WestJet check-in to open and shared some great stories and histories. While we were waiting, a couple from Calgary, Candace and Hunter, lined up immediately behind Karen and commented that they had been seated next to her on the flight down from Calgary to JFK, randomly saw her several times in New York, were on the same subway train back to the airport, and then ultimately ended up in line immediately behind her again. As cliché as it may sound, we all agreed that it was a very small world indeed that was, in fact, getting smaller every day.

Hunter, Candace and Karen

Hunter, Candace and Karen

My most memorable story of personal synchronicity happened almost 15 years ago with Crystal #1, one of the young women that I introduced earlier. I had been in Mexico City probably seven years earlier where I spent several days with an amazing tour guide by the name of Emilio. Emilio was in the first graduating class of the University of Mexico after the Second World War and had so much knowledge and many extraordinary connections to make my time with him incredibly special. Fast-forward seven years and I was in the busy Zocalo area of Mexico City with Crystal and her friend, Zacbeeh. We had been buying jewelry materials for Crystal and were just on our way back to the Metro to head to Zacbeeh’s for the night. We were walking down the street and I looked and, much to my amazement, saw Emilio on the sidewalk right beside me – after so many years! Before this latest trip, he was the ONLY person that I knew in Mexico City – a city with a population of over 18 million. I remembered him and he remembered me. We embraced and quickly caught up, much to everyone’s amazement.

I’m not a religious person, but do consider myself to be spiritual. When these sorts of occurrences happen, I always feel incredibly blessed and that my angels are telling me that, wherever I am and whatever I’m doing, I’m on the right path.

It really is a small world after all!

Mother Mary

Ron and I are both so fortunate to still have our amazing mothers. My sparkplug of a Mom is 85 years young and living independently on our family farm east of Innisfail, Alberta. Ron’s Mom, Mary, turned 97 this past December and still lives in their family home of over 65 years in Santa Clara, CA and still takes total care of her home, herself and everyone in her life.

Mother Mary is an inspiration to all who know her. She’s an excellent driver and cruises all over Silicon Valley for her medical appointments and to pick up the organic groceries she prepares her legendary food with. An example of her eternal optimism, she bought a new car after an accident shortly after her 96th birthday (which was NOT her fault, by the way). She is still traveling every February to visit her oldest daughter and son-in-law, Mary and John, in Ajijic, just outside of Guadalajara, Mexico.  She brings her youngest daughter, Claire, with her now and Ron and I try to get over to the mainland to share some precious time with Mother Mary and some of the family.

Mother Mary in Ajijic

Mother Mary in Ajijic

Mary and Jake raised six children in their modest bungalow. Their home was filled not only with their own children, but with all the kids’ friends. Everyone was welcome and still is in Mother Mary’s home.

Mary made my Mom welcome back in early March. Our Moms got on the phone and conspired to meet, so Ron and I picked Mom up in San José, they spent a couple of days together, then we took my Mom down to Palm Springs with us for the Indian Wells BNP Tennis Tournament. It was very special to see these girls together, forming a new friendship, and learning that their lives shared many parallels that had much in common.

My Mom and Mother Mary

My Mom and Mother Mary

Neither of these women had easy lives and both started with extremely difficult childhoods. What could have made both of these women bitter had the complete opposite effect. Both chose to not be victims but rather the victors in their own lives. These women are my heroines.

I’ve been learning some of Mother Mary’s recipes over the years, watching her make them and listening to her explain, writing some of them down, taking photos of others so that her food will live on. It’s embarrassing when we visit twice a year because she won’t let us do ANYTHING for her, from food prep to even the dishes after one of her sumptuous meals. We spent almost a week with Mary and she treated us to a couple of her famous dishes and our favorites: Portuguese Omelet (with carmelized onions and flat leaf parsley), French Toast (with Trader Joe’s Cracked Wheat Sourdough Bread), Lamb Stew and her “Boiled Dinner” of corned beef, potatoes, cabbage, onions and carrots. The leftover corned beef made of the best road food sandwiches ever – we enjoyed them for days after we left Mother Mary’s.

Lamb Stew

Lamb Stew

Corned Beef "Boiled Dinner"

Corned Beef “Boiled Dinner”

The last thing I wanted to do was bring illness into her home, but I succumbed to a bad flu/cold while we were visiting this last trip. Mother Mary immediately made a pot of chicken soup for me, which I feasted on every few hours for three days. I absolutely attribute her soup to my quick recovery. It was so delicious that I hated for it to end. She uses her Aunt May’s recipe which is filled with goodness. She started with three pounds of organic chicken legs that she cleans with salt before cooking. She covers with water and boils for one hour. Remove the chicken and set aside. Add celery, onion, carrots and, five minutes before serving, add some white rice and chopped parsley. Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve. Mary maintains that you need to sip on a small cup of this broth every few hours for the soup to work it’s best magic. Heat it up, with or without chicken taken off the bone, in the microwave to reheat. Mother Mary’s penicillin – it really works!

One of the things that Mary requested of us was to take a trip to Grass Valley to see her younger sister, Rosalie, who recently broke her leg and is scheduled for surgery in the near future. Rosalie is over 90 years old, as is their brother, Tony, and all of them are bright and in amazingly good health. A special cousin of theirs, affectionately known as “Little Mary” accompanied us that day and she is unbelievably healthy and beautiful – believe me, it’s shocking when you learn that she’s 84 years-old! Each and every one of these Portuguese seniors looks at least 20 years younger than their actual age indicates – they share some very special “fountain of youth” DNA!

Mother Mary, "Little Mary" and Aunt Rosalie

Mother Mary, “Little Mary” and Aunt Rosalie

Never does a birthday or special occasion go by with Mary not sending a card and letter to acknowledge people and let them know she’s thinking of them. She demonstrates kindness, generosity and tremendous thoughtfulness to everyone who knows her. She is grateful for her extraordinary health and her ability to share with others and does so every single day. WE are incredibly grateful for both of our beautiful and precious Moms. We love them both with all our hearts and always will. xox

On The Road To Land’s End – Again!

Every year, Ron and I head up to the BNP Paribas Open Tennis Tournament in Indian Wells, California (www.bnpparibasopen.com).  As always, we watched some fabulous tennis and had an opportunity to catch up with many special and long-time friends (Bonnie and Don, Pete and Tony, Judy, Peter, Bob and Roxy, Bob and Winnie and so many more).

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We drive to and from the tournament every year, which is approximately 1300 miles each way.  We’re on the road home as I write this and I’m remembering how much fun we had with my Mom on this same trip to Cabo last November.

My Mom has always loved every aspect of travel and makes every experience a great adventure.  It’s such a delight to be on the road with someone who takes everything in and enjoys every aspect.  She has a child-like sense of wonder and curiosity – it’s a true gift at any age and especially for someone now in her 80’s.

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We planned our trip down in November, just as we’ve done on this trip, to get to Mulegé to spend Saturday night at the Hotel Serinidad, a fly-in hotel that has been a Baja classic for decades (www.hotelserenidad.com).  Every Saturday night features the Serinidad’s famous pig roast, which lures people with small planes to fly in from the States or other parts of Mexico and for people like us who are driving, to plan our overnight stop for this weekly event.

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The staff at the Serinidad know how to do a pig roast well, and it has become a real highlight on our many trips up and down the Peninsula.  Mom LOVED it, and she enjoyed every aspect of this legendary and iconic hotel.  There are some great memories and stories at this hotel, with pictures on the walls from famous guests of years gone by like John “Duke” Wayne, June Allyson and Dick Powell.  We’ll stay overnight and get an early start to ensure that we arrive home in Cabo tomorrow night.

We wish Mom was with us again on this trip and we’ll be thinking of her tonight.  Hopefully she’ll be with us again for this amazing trip next November!

The Wine Route and Ensenada

When we left San Diego, we decided to head east and cross the border at Tecate instead of Tijuana. We’ve had much better experiences crossing here, especially when we’re headed back to the US as I don’t think we’ve ever taken any less than three hours going north at Tijuana versus a half hour, at maximum, at Tecate.

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We were hoping to get the air conditioning compressor changed on the Lincoln LS in Tecate, but were directed to the Ford dealership in Ensenada instead. Mom and I weren’t uncomfortably hot in the car, but we knew it was going to get much warmer as we continued south.

The road from Tecate to Ensenada is called the Wine Route or “Ruta del Vino” and connects over 50 wineries in the state of Baja California. Although few people think of wine in Mexico, it is actually the oldest wine-growing region in North America (and yes – Mexico IS part of North America!) and have produced wine since the sixteenth century when the Spaniards arrived with vine clippings from the old country. The Wine Route takes you through four different valleys (Guadalupe, Llano Colorado, Santo Tomas and San Vicente) and provides a Mediterranean microclimate that is in the midst of a tourism and winemaking renaissance that Napa Valley experienced in the 1970’s and that the Okanagan Valley in southern British Columbia in Canada has recently experienced.

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Besides the stunning scenery, the Baja wine country offers a wide range of world-class restaurants, B&B’s, and luxury hotels and it’s developing more every year. If Mexico is able to get the drug war under control and make the border towns safe again, we expect the tourism in this area to expand tremendously over the next decade with visitors from the US and beyond. In the meantime, we’re savoring every trip though this region and realize the potential of what will continue to develop over time.

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The Wine Cellar at Vena Cava
(La Ville del Valle)

Unfortunately, because we were anxious to get the car repaired and the weekend was upon us (most businesses close at 1:00 on Saturday and don’t open again until Monday in Mexico), we had to hurry on to Ensenada on this trip and not explore what the wine country had to offer.  I hope that we have more time the next drive down with Mom.

We checked into the Hotel Mision Santa Isabel, a once-beautiful property, but quickly realized that this hotel is a sad memory of its former self. It is perfectly situated, however, and provided close and safe access to good restaurants and shopping. Next time, however, we would stay at the Hotel Cortez across the street (www.bajainn.com) as it appeared very well cared for and they served us a delicious breakfast the next morning.

Mom loves horses and we took a horse drawn buggy down the main thoroughfare to the Telcel location to get our Mexican phones working, got the car fixed at the local Ford dealership and finally got our convoy on the road for the next leg of our Baja journey.