Sunday, December 25, 2011


What a lovely Christmas morning! We woke up, grabbed a bite to eat and headed out for an early morning bike ride along the beachfront malecon. It was cool and breezy but the sun was shining on the ocean and glistening on the sand midst the wave action. The typical hustle bustle of traffic and street-front cafes was non-existent.  There were a few other early risers out to enjoy the peacefulness of the morning, either walking or riding, and we recognized a few friendly faces for exchanges of “feliz navidad”. The pelicans were soaring so gracefully overhead…I was reminded of my friend, Rosemary’s lovely fabric piece of the pelicans she created last year. There they were, just riding the currents, creating a beautiful image of peace.

I have really gotten into holiday baking this year. Thanks to my Quadra Island friend, Carol, I now have a new favorite recipe that I will save forever and SHARE on my blog. I have made 3 batches of these amazing gingerbread squares in the last week and have enjoyed taking little plates of them to my Mexican neighbors. They are not your typical Mexican taste, so I delivered them with a bit of hesitation, but reports are very positive…now I have to translate the recipe in Spanish, so they can make them too.

Gingerbread Squares (Soft on the inside with a crackly finish on top, these gingerbread squares are packed with dried fruit and warm, bold spices. They’re the ideal holiday treat with a pot of tea.)

½ cup unsalted butter

1 cup sugar

1 large egg

¼ cup molasses (in Mexico, ask for melado)

2 Tbs. brewed regular coffee

1 tsp. cinnamon

2 tsp. ground ginger

½ tsp. ground cloves

1 tsp. baking soda

¼ tsp. salt

2 cups all-purpose flour

½ c. golden raisins

½ c. dried apricots, chopped

¼ - ½ c. candied ginger (I couldn’t find this in Mexico but was directed to the internet where I found out how to make it…easy!...from fresh ginger.)

2 Tbs. icing sugar for dusting (optional)

Preheat oven to 350. Butter a 9x9 pan (My buttered pan burnt a bit on the first batch…from then on I used parchment to line my pan and I was much happier.) Cream butter with sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in egg, molasses, and coffee until well blended. Sift dry ingredients together, then stir into wet batter. Mix in fruit. Press batter (it will be sticky and stiff) into the prepared pan. Bake for approx.. 30 minutes, or until just starting to crackle on top. Let cool completely, then slice into squares. Dust with icing sugar if you choose.

If you like the flavor of ginger, you will LOVE these! Enjoy!

Thursday, December 15, 2011


The email came as such a surprise. It was forwarded from my cousin Sally, who lives in Pennsylvania, and initially it made no sense to me. Most of the recipients’ names were unfamiliar, except for my three cousins’ names. It took a while for the puzzle to come together.
My mother, born in 1915 in Seattle, was one of five children. The first three of those five were girls, and I believe these sisters were not more than two years apart. Were they close? Like Velcro, I’d say.
These three sisters also happened to be tied closely to a group of friends they went to grade school with, then on to high school, then on to the world of work or education, onward into married life, post-children, grandchildren, their “mature” years, etc. etc. etc. They were lifelong friends. Close? Like glue. They celebrated not only major events together (weddings, baby showers, etc.) but also frequently gathered for luncheons, bridge, shopping, and always the laughter. My cousins and I remember learning about life from those gatherings – huddling on the stairs, eavesdropping on the stories and the whispered comments, and always, the laughter.

What this unexpected email contained was an idea put forth by two of the female offspring of these BFF’s – to have a reunion of all of the daughters to share stories, pictures, and the like. The response was positive, and a date and place was set. Laurie was going to be the hostess, and her mother, Minty (they all had nicknames: Odie, Andre, Mariah, Minty, Dickie, etc.), was going to be there too. Minty, at 96, was the last of the friendship group, and word was that she was looking forward to the gathering. Being able to spend time with one of my mother’s special friends was one more draw for me to attend.
In the recipient list were approximately ten names. Five of us were cousins, and of the others, I only knew one. Because I have lived in faraway places, I haven’t connected much with my cousins in our adult years, and I thought this would be a fantastic opportunity to do so, AND get to know some women I’d heard so much about many years ago.

I cashed in some air miles for a brief flight from Medford, Oregon, to Seattle.  My rental car carried me on that rainy October day to the Magnolia neighborhood, where I arrived at Laurie’s beautiful home overlooking Puget Sound. This was actually the home of her parents, and I imagined my own mother enjoying similar festive events with her friends. I had a feeling she, her sisters, and other friends now long past, were with us that day, their spirits shadowed among the beautiful flowers and table setting she had prepared for us that day.
We either introduced ourselves or hugged those we knew, and quickly got on to the stories and photos. We shared and laughed about the tales and antics of these lifelong friends, and pieced together different chronologies of events with the photos we brought.  I’m sure the ghosts of our mothers past were giggling at our guesses of what their lives were like.

When our guest of honor, Minty, arrived, we all were awestruck that a link in this chain of friends was there with us. In a wheelchair, accompanied by an attendant, she was elegant in her pink suit and beautiful white hair.  Now the questions began: “Who was the first to get married?” “Where was this picture taken?”  Even though she is hard of hearing, she did her best to help us out. She became the missing link to the bits and pieces of information we brought together that afternoon.

Lunch was served and we gathered at the dining table that our mothers ate at many times with their hostess, Minty. The same china and silver were used, so lovingly preserved and cared for by Laurie. Outside we could view Laurie’s beautiful garden, still full of fall flowers. Our lunch setting was magical and we all commented on how we felt the presence of our mothers.  We shared favorite recipes these women loved to make, and then brought home to their own families. We were networked together as young girls by these Seattle gal-pals. Little did they know that their friendship would carry on to such an event as we enjoyed that rainy Friday.
My cousin Kristine brought each of us a present: a lovely coffee/tea cup to remember the camaraderie of our moms and the connection we now had as a group of their daughters. Perhaps when sitting and enjoying a cup of tea, we would conjure up found memories of either the generation past or the present one we had now solidified.

It was an incredibly special day. We vowed to not let this connection be broken. I know our mothers were smiling.

Technique: This is another piece in the style of Pamela Allen, collage work with pieces hand-stitched in place, then free-motioned with a design on top. The fabrics are all hand-dyed of course! The flower on the teacup is discharged (bleached), and if you look closely into the little faces on the flowers, you’ll see some eyes peering out at you.

Friday, December 9, 2011


The economic rug has been pulled out from under the lives of many Mexican people. The drug war and reports of violence have warded off many potential tourists, and in our town, Mazatlan, it has even brought a stop to the cruise ship industry…hopefully only temporarily. The effects of all of this can be seen everywhere, and our group of snowbirds scratch our heads in wonder as to how many locals can survive in this horrible economy.
Sometimes hard times bring unexpected situations. This is certainly true in the case of Mazatlan’s “sewing ladies”, a group of 12 local women who have been organized through an umbrella group, Pro-Mexico, for over a decade. They create an array of items: placemats, tote bags, table runners, aprons, dolls, wall hangings, napkins, etc., and sell them at venues such as rv parks, the cruise ship terminals, and local hotels. As you can imagine, these selling spots have diminished with the lack of tourists.
Today their new storefront in the Golden Zone (hotel zone) was inaugurated with a ribbon cutting and lovely reception. One of Pro-Mexico’s founding members generously has given this shop to the women rent-free, allowing them to set up their wares in one spot where the tourists that ARE here can buy their products and support them. It’s a great opportunity for them, jumping them up to another level of merchandising, and giving them the experience of running their own store and problem solving , with the help of Pro-Mexico members and some gringo volunteers, to make the most of their new shop.
These women are skilled, honest and hard-working. The community of Mazatlan wishes their group much success. And we all hope that Americans and Canadians AND the cruise ship industry will realize that life is good here in Mazatlan, and will take advantage of an amazingly beautiful and welcoming Mexican destination to spend their vacations.

Monday, December 5, 2011


Here we are…another winter season in Mazatlan. We migrated (via Alaska Air) five days ago and have been busy cleaning out the dust bunnies from our open-air home that takes a bit of a beating during the rainy season. Washing walls, cleaning out cabinets, unearthing treasures…slowly but surely we are reacquainting ourselves with our Mexican hacienda.

But that’s not all we’ve been doing. This is a diverse city of close to a half million people and after spending close to ten winters here, we have gotten to know many aspects of it. First of all, there’s our neighborhood (barrio). We live on a very Mexican and family-oriented street, and happily I can say that with every year that passes, we feel more and more accepted. There were hugs and hellos and many stumbles with our rusty Spanish.

Beyond the barrio (about three blocks worth) is the larger area we live in called Centro Historico. Of course we’ve been curious about any changes that may have taken place in our eight months absence. Without a car, we walk most everywhere, and these first few days we have been criss-crossing the area, catching up with familiar faces and places.

A constant question we hear up north is “aren’t you afraid in Mexico?” The answer we give is always a “no” but we also say that we make sure to be cautious with carrying valuables and where and when we walk.  Use common sense we say. With the economic crisis (“when the U.S. gets a cold, Mexico gets pneumonia”), petty theft is up and in the past few years we have known a friend or two who have had purses and jewelry stripped from their bodies.  Added to these questions are the constant media reports we hear about more and more violence here, so of course we have also been checking out the pulse and the feel of Mazatlan during these first few days of our homecoming.

It feels quieter. Some storefronts are empty, and our local plaza, typically a thriving place, is sleepy at best. But other than that, there are impressive signs of life. Cultural events at our local performing arts theater (Angela Peralta Theater) are plentiful.  Mazatlan Film and Theater is an active group that provides great classic movies and also frequent playreadings. Over 200 people wandered the streets last Friday for First Friday Artwalk. A new beautiful gallery has opened its doors. The Mazatlan Marathon drew a group of participants that nearly filled all of our hotels. An amazing skateboard park located on the waterfront opened last night and was buzzing with activity. The locals are as friendly as ever and the gringos we have come to know continue to return. The tempo is upbeat, and our slice of Mexico feels as magical as ever.

Our little street saw two big parties this Saturday night – one on each side of us. (Two parties = two karaoke machines!) One was a 40th birthday celebration and the other was an early Christmas posada and each lasted until 4 or 5 in the morning. Our bedroom is located on the street side so you can imagine the noise level throughout the night. Typically we close our windows, put in earplugs, and TRY to get some shut-eye. But this night, we joined the birthday party until midnight, then came home and went to bed with windows OPEN and without earplugs. Unbelievably, we slept well.

There are those who can’t get past the media reports about Mexico. They truly are missing out on a wonderful experience in this beautiful country with our neighbors to the south.