Tag Archives: Santa Clara

A Healthy and Delicious Breakfast!

A Healthy and Delicious Breakfast!

We are so fortunate to have access to the freshest and BEST produce here. Our breakfast yesterday consisted of blackberries and blueberries grown on the mainland (near where Ron’s sister, Mary, lives at Ajijic, beside Lake Chapala and half an hour from Guadalajara), fresh organic papaya from our friend, Alberto, who lives and has his organic farm just outside of San José del Cabo, fresh whole walnuts from Ron’s Mom that are grown near Santa Clara, CA, and fresh pomegranate, picked in our garden the day before. Add some yogurt and some homemade granola – an explosion of flavor and goodness to start the day!


Cherimoya Fruit

I had never heard of a cherimoya tree or its fruit until seeing one at Mother Mary’s in Santa Clara, CA. Her tree is over twenty feet tall and it dropped several small fruit while we were visiting and had a large one still hanging on the limb.

Cherimoya Fruit

Cherimoya Fruit

I did a little research on the cherimoya and, although it is indigenous to South America, they are now found in other areas of the world, including California after its introduction in the late 1800’s.

Years ago, there was a team of botanists who came to visit Mother Mary when they learned that her cherimoya was bearing fruit and that she was not hand-pollinating the flowers. According to Wikipedia, “The flowers are hermaphroditic and have a mechanism to avoid self-pollination. The short-lived flowers open as female, then progress to a later, male stage in a matter of hours. This requires a separate pollinator that not only can collect the pollen from flowers in the male stage, but also deposit it in flowers in the female stage.

Studies of insects in the cherimoya’s native region as its natural pollinator have been inconclusive; some form of beetle is suspected. Quite often, the female flower is receptive in the early part of the first day, but pollen is not produced in the male stage until the late afternoon of the second day. Honey bees are not good pollinators, for example, because their bodies are too large to fit between the fleshy petals of the female flower. Female flowers have the petals only partially separated, and the petals separate widely when they become male flowers. So, the bees pick up pollen from the male flowers, but are unable to transfer this pollen to the female flowers. The small beetles which are suspected to pollinate cherimoya in its land of origin are much smaller than bees.

For fruit production outside the cherimoya’s native region, cultivators must either rely upon the wind to spread pollen in dense orchards or else use hand pollination. Pollinating by hand requires a paint brush. Briefly, to increase the fruit production, growers collect the pollen from the male plants with the brush, and then transfer it to the female flowers immediately or store it in the refrigerator overnight. Cherimoya pollen has a short life, but it can be extended with refrigeration.” Very interesting, indeed. How has Mother Mary’s tree managed to produce fruit year after year? Perhaps beetles have done the work, like they have found in Peru, or perhaps it is her hummingbirds.

The fruit, also known as custard apple, was described by Mark Twain as “the most delicious fruit known to man.” It is oval in shape and typically has smooth, bumpy skin. The fruit flesh is creamy and white in color, and is embedded with numerous, large dark brown seeds. When cherimoya is ripe, the skin remains green and will be slightly soft when squeezed. The flavor has been described as a blend of banana, papaya, peach, pineapple, and strawberry.

If chilled, the fruit, also called ice cream fruit, can be eaten with a spoon and is commonly used in yogurt, gelato and ice cream. Who knew that such a delicious and exotic fruit would be found in Mother Mary’s backyard!

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

Spring Cleaning

Once per year in the springtime, the residents of Santa Clara, California, have an opportunity to rid their homes of unwanted and unused items. These items are set at the curb and anyone and everyone is welcome to comb through to see if there’s anything there they want. It is, quite literally, a city-wide garage sale, but everything is free. One person’s junk is another person’s treasure, after all.

It’s quite a sight to see and absolutely amazing what people throw away. It literally evidences how material our society is and that we are all victims of overt consumerism. We all have too much “stuff” and purging and passing on to others who can use it is good for the soul. This program, called the Spring Clean-Up Pick-Up, was introduced in the late 1950s and has been operating very successfully ever since.


Year round, Santa Clara, set in the heart of Silicon Valley, provides curb-side trash, organic waste and blended recycling pick up and the citizens are huge supporters of their recycling program. Big bins are provided for each of the three types of waste and the citizens faithfully move them to the curb-side and back to their yards every week. Santa Clara also sweeps its streets once per week, owns its own utilities (except gas), and has the lowest taxes in the Valley – very impressive.

The city allows the once-per-year spring cleaning at a minimal cost of $3.00 per month for its citizens. The garbage trucks come by and pick up whatever is left after the treasure hunting is complete. It’s an amazing concept that could be replicated in cities and towns across the United States, Canada, and the rest of the world.

Mike and Halloween in Los Gatos

Back to northern California!

Ron and Mike have been dear friends for over fifty years. They met at the grocery store in Santa Clara that they were both working at while in high school and college. They share a rich and wonderful history together and have seen each other through much of life’s journey.


Ron and Mike basically see one another twice per year: on our way north and east to New York in May and then again on our way west and south in October. They rarely contact one another in between, but pick up exactly where they left off when they do see one another. As with all of Ron’s friends and family, Mike has made me so welcome and I love hearing the stories of their shared past.

We spend as much time as possible with Mike when we’re in Santa Clara: tennis, billiards, dinners at their favorite sports haunt, By-Th-Bucket Bar and Grill (www.btbbarandgrill.com) as we usually arrive in Santa Clara in time for the World Series finals, and shared meals at Ron’s Mom’s house. Mother Mary has adopted Mike as practically one of her own and Mike, as a bachelor, thoroughly appreciates her fabulous home cooking.

We spent Halloween night with Mike and his lovely new girlfriend, Debby. We met them in Los Gatos and had a great time walking down Main Street and Santa Cruz Avenue checking out the costumes. Both Mike and Debby were in costume, but Ron and I were disguised as tourists yet again! We ended up dancing and sharing some drinks and more than a few laughs at Number One Broadway, the Los Gatos place for live music (www.numberonebroadway.com). It was a great evening and we always enjoy spending time and sharing life with Mike – one of Ron’s oldest and dearest friends.