Posted on January 5, 2010 in Party by PatriciaNo Comments »

My aunt–Tante–collected teacups.  I found them a couple years ago in my parents’ basement wrapped in 1975  Chicago Tribune newsprint (the year my aunt died), along with the beautiful blue and gold plates you will see in some of the pics, which were originally her mother’s– my grandmother’s–and over 100 years old.

The Chrysanthemum tablecloth is from war-time Okinawa. My aunt Pat was with her soldier husband Charles, stationed in Okinawa and my grandparents visited when the war ended. I remember eating on it only once or twice because it was so precious. My mother inherited it from her mother and I’m using it until my sister decides she might want it for awhile. So that’s why I had to have a tea party now and then.

See the cucumber sandwiches, scones, and goodies that everyone brought? Check out the chrysanthemums tatted into the border. Here, Patricia and Anne survey the spread. Kathy is looking for cobwebs after Lisa explained that her get up is a Norwegian tea party outfit. Next we have Jan E. in a lovely eclectic get-up involving pheasant feathers and fur, Alice of Green Gables, and Jan K. of Gone With the Wind. (If I weren’t pouring tea the whole times I could have taken notes and had a better grasp of this).

Here’s a better look at Jan with Colleen B. See? Pheasant and fur.

See that bruiser of a teapot? We found that in my mom’s closet. Perfect!

At around this point, Shelley stomped in, slammed her beer on the counter and Patricia demanded Shelley come upstairs to be dressed properly. Shelley countered with, “I’m your 1950’s lesbian friend.” Plus a few expletives simply not appropriate at a tea party. Well, okay. “…and Dorothy’s little lesbian sister,” she finished (I’d hoped). Fine. And isn’t she lovely!

Now here you have Jan K, Doro (note her lovely Hills-Are-Alive-With-The-Sound-of-Music skirt, and that bad ass Shelley. I mean, really. Do you see her beer? And her cigarettes!!! Let’s go to the next room. Lynn, Elaine, and Alice are far more polite. Back in the dining room, Lisa is still trying to make a case for her Norwegian tea sweater and Debbie, I believe, is telling Theresa that she realized she’s just lost a glove. On the other side of the table is the goddess, Letty–92 later this month–and setting the fashion trends as usual. There, there. Letty is holding one of the 100 year old blue and gold china plates. And Sara’s red hat and Claire’s blue! Yeah, Ladies.  Into the kitchen and we find the three goddesses in one frame–Tauby, Loretta, making a run for it, and Letitia (aka Letty). What is Shelley doing to Letty’s hair? The normally chaotic kitchen here: Pat, Loretta, Becky, Kate, Ellen, Shelley, Patricia, Kati (note that mammoth tea pot that appears to be coming from Kati’s nose), Jan ministering to Letti, Tauby and Doro.

Check out Ellen.  

There are several photos shot into the dark, but here’s P, demanding that her beloved take yet another shot of her, this time with Loretta and Pat.

Claire has just heard the most scandalous bit of gossip from fellow governess, Kati. I just hope she can keep it mum. Debbie is eavesdropping and knows the secret. Theresa is the only one who didn’t hear it, but Jean, clearly doesn’t not believe it for one moment.          Kati, whatever is the secret?

Will Claire reveal what she knows?

Here Patricia is distributing two dozen pairs of white gloves (for those who came without gloves)–(why ever did Mother save 2 dozen pairs of white gloves?) (Is it worth whistling over all those gloves, Mrs. Powell?). Alice is speculating whether it’s worth whistling over it. Sara thinks it is.

So finally, the portrait shot…Rae, vee have vays of making you take part in party apparel. Okay, I’m wearing clean-up gloves. Can you see them, Monica? And Colleen V. is flashing everyone. Lisa, prove that you’re wearing red matching gloves!

It’s time to say goodbye. Goodbye Letty. Goodbye Doro. Goodbye mink coats. Goodbye hats. Goodbye cane.

But wait, Trina’s just arrived. Here she is with Kati.Or is that Mary Poppins and Bonnie (without Clyde)?

Until next year.


Comment from my cousin Susanna Gilson Hale (who couldn’t remember her log in to comment and I don’t even know what she’s talking about). My six cousins who share the grandmother who owned the chrysanthemum tablecloth were all brought up in Britain, and, all terribly British, even if they live in the colonies. Susie lives in Houston. She says:

That big brown beast looks to me like a Brown Betty – the quintessential English teapot.  Here’s something I found about them:

The unique traditional Brown Betty Teapot range was developed to enable its eighteenth century forerunner to be cast in one piece in terracotta clay embellished with Rockingham glaze resulting in a lustrous rich brown pot. It is said to make the best cup of tea.

There.  A little British trivia for a chilly Wednesday morning.  Would LOVE to have come to the tea party, but nobody sent me an invitation…..

Posted on February 24, 2009 in Travel by PatriciaNo Comments »

We three musketeers drove on to Tequisquiápan. It took me about an hour to get this Indian word in my brain. It’s like this: te KEES kee AH pen. With the major accent on the AH. What a great pueblo (little village). 

We stayed at the Plaza (we always stay at the Plaza when we’re in town) at Juarez 10 and it is RIGHT on the main square and has a swimming pool and a restaurant. Very cool. We tried to make reservations on line beforehand, but I don’t think they check their reservations site. No problem, they had 2 rooms left. Ours. Here’s the entrance.

We went out to the square which is large and gorgeous, with vendors and little stores and terrace restaurants up one floor overlooking the square.

The indigenas (indigenous women) sit all day with their wares. See the baby strapped to this woman’s back.

Even when we don’t buy anything, we give them the change we have. They don’t like their photos taken, but they’re so beautiful and sad and strong that we find ways to do it. Even I didn’t know Morgan snapped these pics of our ladies.

While Morgan and I were having lunch on a 2nd story terrace, Saturday afternoon, we heard the blast of the wildest band. It was a Quincieras, the 15 year old girl’s coming of age celebration. She rolled onto the square in her horse-drawn carriage, followed by the red-uniformed band playing with gusto you can’t imagine. Fortunately the church ceremony (it’s kind of a wedding without the groom) was really long. We went across the square to our Hotel Plaza, I went for a swim, got dressed and got these pics at the end of the church ceremony. First I shot the band, waiting for the ceremony to end.

Then our gal came out of the church and it took three men to heave her up into the cart.

She’s not a great beauty, but very warmly kissed and received kisses from her attendants. On the right in the white suit is Papa. There was no Mama in sight. My speculations is this was an extra special Quinciera for a rich family and a motherless only-child.

And here they go, the band playing, again with great gusto. As is typical of the Mexican personality, there’s not great store in playing precisely on the beat or pitch. My atonal composer husband (and Jim, too) dreams of notating the wonderfully bizarre non-reproducible music.

We walked in the big city park and watched the families and lovers in embrace. We love the way a lounging father would pull his son onto his belly. Mothers and children, too, of course. But there’s great warmth and stock in family that’s quite beautiful. No pictures, it seemed too invasive, but I’ll find something of the park. Here’s Jim and I under great tree.

We all liked Tequisquiápan so much, and especially Jim, that we looked or a house for him. He might move here next year. We’ll see. Goodbye to Tequis…

On the way home we stopped at the Parque Zoologico Wameru in Queretero. For me, zoos are bittersweet, but this was a pretty darn good zoo, much much more than I expected. They had two litters of baby tigers spawned from their own animals, 6 weeks old and 4 months old. Many are white from the mother and the father’s recessive gene. Babies of all types are irresistible. Our camera wasn’t working, unfortunately, but it’s definitely worth seeing if you like zoos. Animals of all classes from all over the world. It’s right off the carretera (on the major highway, just east of the city very near the airport).

We had Sunday lunch right off the highway at the spectacular Mariscos Chilo, a fast food Mexican chain. The place could have seated 500 and nearly did. We were incredibly efficiently served. My shrimp tostadas were wonderful and fresh and tasty ($15 pesos each, about $US 1). The boys might have had pulpo (octopus) and that was wonderful. There’s a mariachi band circulating which is always a gas. And just to show how Catholic this country is, there’s a big crucifix on the wall. Jim thinks that the crowd was mostly from el campo (countryside), dressed in their Sunday best, coming into town to eat out for an occasion. Cool. 

Now we’re back in San Miguel at Suzanne and Robert’s lovely house, having been here 26 days, about to return home to the midwest, which I’m very happy to do. Think about renting this spectacular villa.

I can’t even reread this. Sorry for booboos and typos.






Posted on February 24, 2009 in Travel by PatriciaNo Comments »

Jim, Morgan, and I headed for the larger city of Querétaro, east of SMA. We drove in, found a place to park for less then 10 pesos (a dollar) and walked toward the central domes. We found a tourist office on Pasteur and 5 de Mayo, which suggested 3 hotels in our price range (medio, less than about $600 pesos/ $45). We saw no gringos and spoke almost exclusively in Spanish (lousy Spanish, I might add). We ended up in the new el Senatorial on Guerrera and Hidalgo which was fine, but I wish we’d found the Hotel Hidalgo (Pino Suarez between Juarez and Allende) first. It’s an 18th C Spanish hotel built around a courtyard and right on the street. Next time. If you’re filthy rich or go for high end hotels, definitely stay at La Casa de la Marquesa at Madero # 41 ( Rooms start above $200 USD. Wow wow and wow.

The architecture is spectacular. But we found the city odd. Jim couldn’t find a bottle of wine or even a glass of wine, not for not trying. The city has three jardins each quite close to the next–Jardin Zenea (the main one), Plaza de la Constitución, and Plaza de la Corregidora.

In search of the centuries-old aqueduct, I took us in the wrong direction, but we found instead el Templo de Santa Rosa de Viterbo.

I was readily forgiven. Across the street, is one of many city squares where there’s a fountain show. The water spray of water is better than a light show.

The interior of the church is absolutely spectacular. Gold painted wood, as so many are. Way ornate. Then we walked from this western point of the center and walked and walked to get to the aqueduct. Here it is in the midst of the city.  

And here’s Jim and Morgan looking at it.

And now it’s late and we’re whipped but we’ve got to walk east to get back to el centro.

Then it was time (8:30) to go to Orquesta Filarmónica del Estado de Querétaro playing in the courtyard of the spectacular Templo y Ex Convento de San Agustín.

The orchestra was very good and played contemporary Mexican composers. The second being a guitar concerto (guitarrista: Isidora Ramos; composator: Eduardo Angulo). We left at intermission to find dinner but there was no dinner to be had. Everything was closed down on a Friday night in this large city. Morgan and I weren’t hungry, having eaten ourselves silly over the last few days, but Jim needed sustenance (and wine). We ended up in a dreary cafe where Jim got a beer and day old spaghetti.

In the morning we headed to Tequisquiápan.


Posted on February 23, 2009 in Travel by PatriciaNo Comments »

Morgan and I arrived in San Miguel, for our second month here, my third visit within a year. I guess we like it. It took me awhile to get to blogging. Here are a few days, a few pics. Here I am happy to be here. Here I am, happy to be in SMA.Happy Patty


Sunday, February 8


With Jim and in his car, Morgan and Lisa and I went to the town of Dolores Hidalgo–I’ve been a couple times now–where they make and sell beautiful ceramics. I bought some. Lisa (my step and Morgan’s daughter) bought some. Then we went to a great little Mexican carnitas (pork) place on the way into Dolores and ate pork with pickled peppers and 3 salsas and fresh fresh tortillas. Here’s the vat of fat in which they cook the puerco. Yahoo.

We went into the center of town to the square, where a thousand Mexicans in their Sunday best are eating reknowned Dolores Hidalgo ice cream. I stepped into the parrochia and sang the Amen Amen Amen with all the congregation which was pretty wonderful. Toddler girls are dressed in fancy white dresses and little boys in priest vestments. The parents show them off. I wish I had a picture.


We returned to San Miguel and stopped into the Candelaria annual flower show in the Parque Juarez and bought a few ceramics as well as more pots and plants for Suzanne’s house. Lisa is upstairs on the third story terrace of Suzanne and Robert’s beautiful house (scroll down to see photos and all about the house you can rent) where she is potting plants right now.


We had dinner last night on the other side of town at Jim’s house, on his rooftop garden, where he grilled chicken, but forgot the smelts that he bought.


Later today, I’ll go swimming (or actually playing in the pool) up the hill and take Lisa to a few last stores for her to buy gifts. She goes home tomorrow.


Here’s Jim and Lisa and Morgan when we went to the Monja Hotel which was formerly a convent.



Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Today, Morgan and I walked down and up and down the mountain to the Fabrica Aurora which was once a textile factory. It lay dormant for years and in the last 15 years has been made into a chichi gallery with cafe and shops. It’s very nice and proves that there are very rich people in San Miguel.


We made our way back on Calle Quebrada (means rough, like hruby means rough, as some translate it) and had lunch at a Thai restaurant, which was very good and a nice change. We bought vegetables at a little green grocer’s, and other groceries at a tienda downtown, took a taxi toward home, stopped at Parque Juarez where a flower and plant sale is still going on. It’s so beautiful with every color of flower and the cool of green just makes you feel so dang good. I hopped out and bought a couple more flowering plants for our hosts and came home.


We had dinner at Jim’s tonight, shrimp with red and yellow peppers on the grill and broccoli and sauteed eggplant. It was really good. With a great $5 French merlot.W We love Jim’s fish chimenea. Morgan is doing one of the things he loves best and has done a load of at Suzanne and Robert’s, but the pic is from Jim’s. Gardening, not smoking.


Today I saw the pit Morgan fell in. Yikes. It is sheer concrete, a rectangular box and you can’t see it. It’s like a shadow on the sidewalk. He was all alone, near home, checking out the view and wham. He doesn’t even know what happened.

I took some pics of it today, one with Morgan in the pit. He is so so so lucky. He could easily have broken is neck. They now have it banded off as peligroso (dangerous). It’s a snake pit. (Thanks, Kerry!)After a few days he was 98% recovered. But it’s going to hang on, I think. He must have slammed way hard.


Citibank closed our Master Card credit card. Apparently you’re supposed to tell the credit card company that you’re going abroad. They saw Mexican charges and just shut it off. And our American Express won’t work at the ATMs. In fact the only place we’ve found to use it is the huge Mega grocery store. At least we won’t starve.


We tried to make reservations at a gorgeous rooftop garden restaurant tonight but it’s filled. So we’ll go there Thursday. Hopefully we’ll have money by then. (See Resource Entry below). Wouldn’t you know this happened right when the weekend started. Actually we tried to get a new card from Citibank, insisting that they bail us out but 1) I could not remember my social security number and 2) I don’t know the zip code or mail code of this place. They thought I was an idiot 😉 and said they’d love to help me out when I got home to the states. I thanked them profusely, of course.


Thursday, February 11


Jim and our friend Norma Cecilia (mentioned in previous postings), our Spanish teacher, came to dinner. Troubles always comes too. Here’s a nice pic of the two of them.


Random sitings:

Here’s how they announce garbabge (basura) pick up: boy runs down street with a big pipe triangle clanging it LOUD. People come out with their garbage. The streets en el centro are much too narrow to clutter with garbage. So, this is an effective system. Basura pick up is funded by taxes. It’s a good thing.


Saw an 18th C house today for sale on Correo listed for 1.4 million. Pretty cool. They’ll never get the money, marked down from 2.2 mil.


I saw a horse being shoed right in the street. Just like you change a tire. On the cobblestone street.


Indigenous people sometimes sit, sometimes wander. We always give them what change we have.


There’s this great chanter in the jardin. We hear that he was once an effective political activist here in SMA, but the government put an end to his activism. Now he shuffles through the park, chanting a stream of consciousness gripe about how he used to do good and now they won’t let him. Sometimes I follow him and listen. It’s kind of like Gregorian chant but not quite. Morgan shot this great pic.


Advice and small bits of information:

            In SMA, mangoes are better in June – September than they are February. Papayas are better in February. I don’t know about the other months.

            Travel tip: To avoid digestive disrupts, aka turista, start taking oil of oregano in capsules ten days before going on your travels and continue for awhile while you’re here. It’s a mild herbal antibiotic or antibacterial that you can buy at your health store and neither Morgan nor I have had any problems and we eat in the market, tamales bought from venders on the street.




Posted on February 23, 2009 in Travel by PatriciaNo Comments »


Here is a list of restaurants, pools, markets, and stuff you might want in SMA. It’s not all-inclusive, just some suggestions. Go to the City Building just north of the jardin and get a map. It’s pretty easy to find your way around.




Baan Thai Restaurant

Quebrada 12 Centro (n.w. of jardin)

152 7292

green fish curry and Thai noodle salad, both very good.

There’s supposed to be another Thai restaurant on Ancha de San Antonio, but is more expensive and we hear, not as good as this one. We loved this for lunch.



Calle Hidalgo 42

Regional relleno with beef and pomegranate seeds sin (without) crema; I don’t eat cream, but I hear that with the cream it’s just too rich – excellente

Margaritas, strong and terrific (no syrupy mix)

Tilapia with orange sauce – grand

Great atmosphere, mature climbing flowering vines inside

Classical Guitarrista es bueno


Capilla roof terrace restaurant,

Aldama, maybe 14, across from Posadita.

Capilla means chapel and is built into the great parochial church.

So spectacular. The food is great, the views are even better

Expensive for SMA, but we’re going for a belated Valentine’s date. It was full up on the 14th so we went a few days later.

My roasted vegetable salad with goat cheese and Morgan’s spinach salad with goat cheese and pecans were both terrific. He had salmon, I had crab/scallop cakes which were good, if you like slightly sweet entrées. I don’t. But it was complex, with both picante and sweet, which I can appreciate even if I don’t like it. My margarita was very good. And more like two margaritas because they give you a little frosted pitcher with the remainder of the drink in it. Morgan’s vodka martini and his wine were very good. It cost $815 pesos (now: US $ 54) plus tip (they say don’t tip 20% but I did). The place is absolutely sublime. We took a load of photos to prove it. Our Valentine’s Date was the best Valentine’s date ever, even if it came 5 days late. A pianist plays in the indoor dining room/bar, but we were on the magnificent terrace. Very pleasant. Esplendido!


Hecho en Mexico


Lots of people like this. We’ll go tonight and see.


Mercado north of Canal one short block and west of San Antonio Abad a few blocks.

Middle stall on north side. Terrific and costs hardly anything. Different specials each day include posole, menudo (stomach—can’t manage that), pollo con salsa verde, meatballs, mole; and always with condiments like salsas, peppers, onions (we avoid the lettuce and tomatoes due to not thinking they’re washed with iodine) and always fresh made tortillas. I think we pay about $3 or less for a big meal.


Posada Corazon B&B

Aldama, south of Cuadrante, 2 blocks from jardin, red house, ring timbre (doorbell)

Desayuno (breakfast and brunch, but still open at noon) go for comida (lunch)

Enhojado huevos, specialty wrapped in leaf, chilaquiles

Huevos Tibetano, all wonderful, mostly organic. Home made whole grain breads, local herbal teas

Gardens are just gorgeous. Library is fantastic. A real treat. About 120 pesos ($8-9 now) (apiece, fixed price. Not to be missed.



Aldama #13

Alongside to west of the parrochia

3rd floor terrace dining, great view, great food. Fairy lights at night. Lovely for lunch or dinner.


La Tecolote

on Jesus.

For lunch, takes too long to be served, both times we’ve been there. Very gringo clientele. So loads of people like it but I won’t rush to revisit it.


Mostly we eat in, but here are a few places where we’ve gone. More in text (below) from previous visit.




Mercado de Artesanias

Walk north and east of the jardin. Be sure to walk north on Loreto as there are wonderful shops for needlework hangings, Oaxacan rugs, mirrors and metal work frames. But the best prices are generally in the market itself.


Talaveras (ceramics). My favorite dishes, bowls, serving platters are on the north (I think wall) in the center. They have the best quality and the loveliest painted designs and they’re not expensive. To get more variety and even better prices travel to the town of Dolores Hidalgo (I write about it below in the September visit to SMA).


I bought two Oaxacan rugs in the market where I found the best designs at the best prices. If you buy more than one, you can generally round down the price and get a better deal.


Instituto Allende

On Ancha de San Antonio and was created by Sterling Dickinson just after WWII along with Bellas Artes on Hernandez Macia (I think) and really is what makes San Miguel the attraction to American and Europeans that it is. He started art schools that were attended by American GIs, hence, all the art and gringos here now.

During two of my 2 visits here (the month long ones) the Instituto has sponsored a huge art show where you can buy jewelry, ceramics, rugs, bags, clothes, so many different artesanias (arts, crafts, folkoric art). Most towns have only their indigenous arts—if they have them–and junk made in China with Mexican slogans written on. San Miguel, catering to the gringo population, is pretty much junk-free, yet has folkloric art from all over the country. For instance I bought a beautiful turquoise needle worked bag from Chiapis, which you can buy in the stores in town for $350-480 pesos, but I bought in the market for $150 pesos (ten dollars right now). I can got an exceptionally good deal, because the dueño (owner) and I hit it off and it was his first sale of the day. He blessed me. It’s a VERY Catholic country.




Las Barricas Vinos y Licores

Quebrada #20 (n.w. of jardin)

154 8280

deliver for free




Mesones, east of Relox

Small, locally run, lots of stuff you’d need including American things like soy milk, peanuts)

2 doors up is a good Mexican green grocer



Is a super story (groceries and clothes and you name it) south out the Ancha de San Antonio. I don’t approve, I think we should be shopping in the little family-run businesses in town. But, I must admit, it makes life much easier on occasion to get a load of groceries and take them home by car or taxi (which wait outside in abundance). You get a card from them the first day and get a discount on each subsequent purchase, but of course, we forgot to use it. Oh well.



Lynea Nagle from Boston

Comes to your house with your table, riding a 4 wheel Honda cycle thing. Yahoo.

$350 pesos (US $25)!

cell 415107 3511

Fine massage with a really fun lady. I hope to see her again.




Club Santo Domingo

Santo Domingo # 55 (up from the jardin – Correo becomes Santo Domingo)

Pool and gym, very slightly funky, but fine.

Warm and lovely in June through September (and probably beyond), but I’m speaking first hand

Pretty dang cold in December –January, 65 F I hear.

February, started at 68 degrees (which I could barely manage) by mid Feb 74 degrees F. Getting better. Dia: $60 pesos/ semana $200 pesos / mes $400; with today’s exchange, less than US $30 per month.


Escondido Place Balneario.

10 kilometers on Carretara San Miguel-Dolores Hidalgo are a number of natural hotsprings. The other well-known place is La Gruta, but we like Escondido. $90 pesos (now about US$6). They have foot available and various tubs of various degrees of warm, hot, and cool. Like the Roman Baths of yore but everyone wears swimsuits.


We hear there’s a pool to be used for $50 pesos ($US 3.50) at the Aldea Hotel on the Ancha. Since I have a pass at Santo Domingo, I won’t check it, but the Aldea is closer to us.


Out of Town Day trips or Overnighters: see above blog entry for these.




Tequisquiápan a pueblo north and east of SMA.


We’ve tried to make reservations to stay in the Plaza of Tequisquiápan. We’ll see if they’re honored. No, they weren’t but we got the last two (of 16) rooms. Wowwee. Read more soon.




Posted on January 10, 2009 in Party by Patricia2 Comments »

This is not travel, this party took place in Champaign Illinois, but I need a place to post the tea party pics from January 4, 2009.Tante\'s tea cups

The party was inspired by my finding my aunt’s (Tante) collection of English teacups in my parents’ basement in Michigan, wrapped in 1975 Chicago Tribune newsprint. When we visited my aunt when we were kids, we could choose the teacup we would use. Tante died in 1975 and the cups and her china were hidden in the basement these 33 years. I was granted the blue china as well. S

These are the elders, starting with Letty; then Letty, Loretta, Tauby, none of them are old, simply eld. Also, Rae and Colleen. How did you get in there with the elders?Here’s a larger portrait, but certainly not everyone, just those in the kitchen.

Oh, this is ever-so-important and we need a change of photo type. Here are my shoes. I got them at a frock swap. Lovely, but crippling.And now for a few portrait shots. Here’s Kate who did it up with P. Then Rae who shopped for the occasion.Now here’s the dining room table, then the kitchen table.And here’s the shoe again.Have I put this one in yet?And here’s an erie picture of clean up time.I don’t think I got pics of everyone, but here’s a couple more:And now it’s time to put the teacups away.




Posted on September 14, 2008 in Travel by PatriciaNo Comments »

Thursday, September 4, 2008, el jueves


I’m back in San Miguel. Suzanne, who I met here this summer, invited me to keep her company while she fixed up her new house–una gran casa–which she bought in August. While I was working out whether this was at all possible, I told her I’d work very hard helping her buy rugs, ceramics, art, beds, whatever, but I’d have to do my own work 2 hours each day (writing and planning presentations). She said, “No problem, all you have to do is just say yes or no as I bring things in the house or say, too much salt on the margaritas.”

I thought I could do that. So here I am–in a casa (house) with two bedrooms joined by open terraces to a casita with three bedrooms, each casa/ita with a magnificent kitchen with the best of everything and centered on a courtyard with a fountain and fireplace and terraces and gardens galore.


Just so I wouldn’t feel totally hedonistic coming back to SMA so soon, I brought a large suitcase crammed with baby things for Casa de Los Angeles, the single mother’s baby daycare. Lovely Amy Mohr, friend and writer, supplied a free-standing infant car seat and I bought toys and clothes at garage sales—really nice stuff.


I actually arrived in SMA the day before Suzanne did, but Lucha, the housekeeper let me in the casa(house). I walked into town and bought groceries and cerveza and taxied it home. When I was putting stuff away, Javier, one of the workers just walked in yelling, Patti. He’d just let himself in with one of the new keys, which kind of freaked me out, but he only left a business card concerning taxis. Javier is Lucha’s brother. All is well.


The view of the city is lovely from the five balcony/patio/terraces during the daytime and exquisite by night. I see the parrochia and three other churches, plus all the lights of the city. (This casa is rentable, with its five bedrooms in the main house and the casita, two kitchens. Here’s a link   )




Friday, September 5, 2008, el viernes


Suzanne arrived early Friday morning with suitcases brimming with sheets for the five beds. And we immediately began to measure everything and make plans for shopping. I climbed up the long hill, which is a great warm-up to swim in cool water, then met her at the jardin (central park). She was way late, but I enjoyed people-watching, while sitting on a park bench. Here was the best scene.


A Mexican woman wearing a blouse unbuttoned to below her breasts and nestling a puppy dog below those well-exposed breasts and over her ample hips, leans over and kisses an older pot-bellied gringo, all the time she’s talking on a cell phone. Before leaving, she leans in and gives him another smooch and walks down the street. The row of gringos (American men) sitting alongside me but separated from me by a tree, yells to the guy, “You weren’t looking at that dog.” And he yells back, “No, but I was looking at those puppies.”


I was laughing, so the gringos invited me to come to lunch with them, but instead, I waited for Suzanne to arrive at the jardin. We had lunch on a patio terrace overlooking the town. Yahoo. I felt rich and European and relaxed. Afterwards, I went to my first private Spanish class at the home of Norma Cecilia Romero Delsordo. (great name, eh?)


Around nine, Suzanne and I walked into town and had dinner at Los Milagros and the owner served us, plying us with way-too-strong margaritas. When he asked how they were, I told him what I thought so he brought tamarind Margaritas on the house that were exquisite. Okay, so we were drunk, especially Suzanne who’d just arrived on 3 hours of sleep.


I’d really like to be telling this all in Spanish, you know, for practice, but I know my dad would not approve of that and, oh yeah, hardly anyone would read it. I often act as translator for Suzanne and sometimes it probably comes out right but other times I’m probably saying: The green and white stripes please mi amiga, Suzanne, but she doesn’t make with the red and yellow flowered fabric.




Saturday, September 6. El sabado.


Angelica, Suzanne’s house manager, took us around San Miguel to see hand carved pine headboards and then brought us to the studio where Rinato can paint them. Right in his house, the children were eating cereal and an older child was painting milagros (miracle scenes to help families get through rough patches). We were taken into the bedroom to see their elegant carved headboard—the arabesques accented in gold over the maroon and deep green. Suzanne had the brilliant idea of taking an open shelving unit from the casita, have Rinato add doors to it, and paint a whimsical San Miguel cityscape—or something else yet to be decided. She also ordered some simple wooden chairs that he’ll paint with fruits and vegetables—or maybe not. All these decisions are to be made. Eventually I should have pics.


Angelica and her husband took us to the factory store, San Gabriela (on the way to the town of Dolores Hidalgo—known as the ceramic town) where we spent four hours picking out ceramic pots and jars and ordering customized tile topped iron tables and chairs. Suzanne knows what she wants, and it’s not anything there on the floor. She really cracks me up—and thank God Angelica was there to do the translating—because S wants the pattern from this square table, but made for her round table and not these tiles, but she’ll supply the tiles because the 3,987 choices they have here just don’t blow her away. And she wants this ceramic water dispenser, but here where the background is ivory, make that red. And the mugs like this, but in blue. And she’ll get it all. Delivered. And that’s all part of the beauty of Mexico. And of Suzanne’s ability.


I’m so impressed with Suzanne and it’s such an education for me because I’d either say, fine,whatever, or walk away from the task because it’s just too overwhelming. But we loaded the van with stuff and the customized stuff will come later—once S chooses tile from some other place.


Okay so here, I’ll mention, this woman doesn’t sleep or eat. She just goes. And goes. And goes. Because we swim early in the morning, we haven’t seen food since 8 am and that was a pretty paltry meal. And now it’s 4:30 and my chin is flat on the pavement, so I figure it’s time to mention food. Our great hosts take us to a little carnita (pork meat) place at the side of the road. And food has never tasted so good–the pork and the pickled peppers, and two different salsas and little tortas—pork meat pies in cornbread. So Suzanne says she’s just sharpening my desire for food, so I canreally appreciate it. I also must say that I’ve fallen into the pattern even when I’m not with Suzanne, which is really astounding because I’m normally a three meals a day and plenty of snacks kind of a gal. As for sleep I still sleep like the dead, or as we say here in Mexico duermo como angelitos—I sleep like the angels.




Sunday, September 7, el domingo


I won’t tell everything, but this woman is doing a yeoman’s job. She’s buying beds, lamps, mirrors, glass table tops, textile art, and ceramics in stores, markets, here and in surrounding towns, in the park and having iron wrought into headboards and ornate rods to hang beautifully woven fabrics, and items get delivered at various times, and the phone is ringing and between the two of us we bounce all over the house and direct these men to move this and install that and with our primitive Spanish everything is getting done. So here’s a funny anecdote.


An original bed had to be moved from the downstairs casa, across the terrace and into an upstairs casita room, but it was too big to go around corners and get up the stairs, so Jorge and Luis pulled it up over a terrace wall with a rope, Suzanne, supplying her brand new cooking mitts to pad the bed feet against the stucco of the terrace walls. Still it wouldn’t fit through the door and the bed required an allen wrench (llave allen) to dismantle. So I run out on the streets looking for a man working under his car (Suzanne’s suggestion—this is 6:30 Sunday evening) in order to try to borrow a set of wrenches. Well, I found no man under a car anywhere, but I did find two little boys, Enrique y Erik, who took me (we ran) to first one hardware store (closed), then another (closed) and a third which would be open for 5 more minutes and I guessed at whether we needed standard or metric, bought a set, and paid each boy with the coins I had—10 pesos for the best helper, 5 for the other. Then I had to break up their argument and explain it was all I had in coins, but Enrique did most of the work, Erik, which he agreed to, and all was well. Except the allen wrench didn’t work. The largest one was too small. The men had already gone and left the bed on the terrace to be dealt with mañana. Suzanne was very appreciative of my idiocy. Which she had suggested.




At 8 pm we set out for dinner, but first we went to the most spectacular street festival, Fiesta de San Loreto on Calle San Loreto. As we walk down the narrow cobblestone street, like a canyon with stucco buildings built up on either side, there are children on fairly primitive carnival rides and a row of net-encased trampolines, with about a dozen young children bouncing on each one, squealing in delight.


Further down the street, chicos, boys from about 11 to 18 are, drumming and dancing, dressed in deer skin loincloths, their faces painted, feathers in their straight black hair, wearing necklaces of bear claws and various animal parts and dancing like the plains Indians of North America. When I ask about this–the similarity of Central American Indians to North American Indians–it’s surmised that people living an existence, close to nature, would probably develop similar cultural practices. I wonder.


And further down yet, blocking the street is a spectacular shrine dedicated to San Loreto. A grotto of white flowers and crepe paper draped in red and gold banners, surround a life-size statue of San Loreto. Mexicans of all ages are coming approach and make the sign of the cross.


We go to dinner after 9 pm at–and this is the truth—La Bugambilia—and inside bougainvillea is cascading down the walls. A wonderful Spanish guitarist serenade and dinner is great, chile relleno stuffed with apple and beef and pomegranate, beautifully seasoned, with maybe cardamon, all encrusted in almond meal. It’s normally in a cream sauce which we omit as we’re both lactose intolerant. This is a typical dish of this restaurant and this area. I’ll find out the name of the dish. Great. And a salad with mixed greens, slices of avocado, pomegranate seeds, grapefruit sections (with the membranes removed), grapes, and a dressing of I don’t know what, but not sweet J and it’s the best meal I’ve had here, ever. (Besides the carnitas on Saturday, of course).




Monday, September 8, el lunes


I’ve never enjoyed shopping so much. Maybe because we’re buying all this gorgeous Mexican folk art. I’m getting a few things as well. I buy them as gifts and Suzanne says, no, get that for you and Morgan. So, we’ll see.


I gave my second two books, Zinnia and Frog Brings Rain to the library today, even though Blossom Tales, which I gave to them this summer, is not in the catalog. Juan Manuel said he would enter these two into the system right that moment. And we’ll presume that Blossom Tales is in a stack of books ready to be entered.


A parade of school children marched, drumming and bugling (wowee, what intonation!) around the jardin yesterday as I passed. Each school was represented and identified so sweetly by uniform and style of marching. Here was a group of girls in green plaid skirts, white blouses and knee socks and white gloves in identical mary-janes swinging their arms and making tiny steps; here are boys lifting their knees high, in navy blue pants and white shirts with soft homemade red epaulets; here, a group of girls with their white gloved hands pressing into their red plaid skirts absolutely confident. What’s this next, a secretarial school? Young ladies in straight skirted tan suits wearing nylon stockings! And what are those two young women doing in the boy’s group, trying to march in stiletto black heels. Very sweet.

We ate at home as we do every other night. A salad of mango, cucumber, carrot, jicama, sweet peas, whatever looks good at the market. And we direct deliveries of items purchased, plan how to exhibit art pieces, setting ceramics and pillows and beds and bedding in place, hanging beautiful huge platters.




Tuesday, September 9, el martes


Finally, I delivered the baby things to Casa de los Angeles—a wonderful place. There’s a room each for under one, one year olds, two, three, and four year olds. They were napping, so I just said hola and flirted with a few children. More on this later, because it’s a great place to donate. They line the babies up in car seats and on blankets on the floor for their naps. They definitely need stuff—this 9-5 day care for poor single Mexican mothers runs with a handful of employees and lot of volunteers. It’s a place where you can hold babies, read to little ones. Each mother must work one hour for each day her child stays.


I’ve been carrying around a couple of baby sleepers wherever I go and I’ve not found the usual mothers-carrying-babies that you usually see. Instead of giving them fifty cents or a dollar, I want to hand them an outfit. The old ladies who sit on the stoops in the street or market place stairs or selling the little dolls, I’ve been interviewing. Tiene nietes? Do you have grandchildren? But none have had infants to two year olds, which is what I can supply. As soon as I deposited the clothes at Casa de los Angeles, I ran into three young indigenas mothers with their babies. But no baby clothes with me. I retained one toy and one baby sleeper, so I’ll have that with me on my next trip to town.


Same with dogs. Skinny sad sweet Mexican dogs abound. Yesterday, once I’d finally realized I must carry snacks because of the mega-gaps between meals, I was scarfing salted pepitos as I walked down the street. A long legged black dog took on that CUTE ear-swiveling alert look so I laid a handful of seeds on the pavement. He rushed to eat it. And that was that.


So today I bought a medio-kilo (a pound) of Pedigree dog kibble, that many stores sell in bulk. I set a handful of kibble on the cobblestone for the first dog I saw who happened to be a pit bull (there’s a bad pit bull story I heard at a free Spanish conversation class yesterday—one attacked this woman’s friend. The authorities locked it up for 10 days, no rabies, and released it. It has an owner, but it’s supposed to be back on the street). But this pit bull I saw was a sweet boy, sort of like my dad’s dog, Guy. The pit bull followed me down the street instead of eating the kibble. I coaxed him back to the pile of Pedigree to show him. Oh, this was edible stuff! Peanuts and chicken bones, he knew, but he’d possibly never eaten dog kibble ever before. So he ate.


But then he caught up and followed me. I laid down a trail so he’d have to find each kibble, giving me time to make my getaway. Nope, he’d rather follow me than hunt for kibble on the pavement. Jazzabelle, our yellow lab, would have snarfed each kibble before racing for more. I felt kind of like the Pied Piper as he followed me down the street, imagining a whole string of canines in tow. Eventually he gave up and hopefully returned to the trail of kibble. I’ll have to perfect my technique.


Because we don’t have internet connection at the casa, yet, I’m making this blog entry as one huge entry. I went to an internet café for the first time to pick up my e-mails. It cost all of fifty cents for 20 minutes, but I think I was there much longer than 20, answering a build up of mail.


I went to the upper salsa class at Mama Mia’s. So much fun. The teacher )can’t remember his name from summertime) but Morgan will remember him, spent a lot of time dancing with me. If you’re with a great partner, you dance great. Then Suzanne met me (who was impressed by my spinning ability) and we had dinner at Pegosas at around 10:00 and closed the place after sharing a mojito and tamales and artichokes. Nice.





Wednesday, September 10, el miercoles


Suzanne ended up ordering beautiful carved wooden headboards, in a little workshop on the way home from the Costco in Celaya. One will be designed from the Diego Rivera painting—a view of a girl from behind, her braids streaming down her back as she is gathering lilies—alcatrazes!—isn’t it interesting that the famous prison in San Fran is named lilies. Did you know that? I didn’t.


Another headboard is latticework and the other a carving of flowers. All exquisite, as seen on Suzanne’s cell phone camera.


She bought about 10 metric yards of toilet paper, as well as light bulbs, because she never wants to return to Costco.


After I swam, I met Suzanne and we purchased more ceramic ginger jars, beautifully painted plates for the walls, and tapestries to set around the house. It’s really taking shape.


We came home to finish cooking for our 5 guests, salmon, rice and beans, salad, then I went out to salsa again and danced with the most expert salsa dancer I’d ever danced with. YIPPY AYE AY, I could do anything. He tried talking to me while we danced, but I had to say, I couldn’t speak Spanish and dance at the same time…yet. One or the other and unfortunately no, I couldn’t go out to El Rinque and dance later because I had to return to the party. I returned home and only one person showed up. We don’t know why, is there some cultural thing. I knew none of the people invited, so I have no speculations except maybe it’s like the Japanese who always say yes, so as not to disappoint you, then later don’t show up, which is actually more disappointing. Who knows.


So we have an awful lot of rice, beans, salmon and salad, which we’ll give away to various workers. Not to mention 8 heads of romaine, which is the only way Suzanne could purchase it at Costco.




Thursday, September 11, el jueves


We waited for deliveries, advised Javier on where to hang this plate and that mirror and install this lock, then set out to buy even more vases, jars, plates. The house is pretty big and needs color. We both went swimming, and set out to the market and small stores and bought even more. I’ve never ever abs

olutely ever shopped so much in my life. And we have fun doing it.


Suzanne carries her tape measurer and pages of legal pad notes of places and sizes of niches. It’sorganized chaos. We got the greatest little mirror for the upstairs casita bathroom—looks like it’s designed for the room. Tomorrow I’ll take photos and develop a virtual tour.


Because we had to greet deliveries at home we went into town three different times, each time arriving home in a taxi,which costs $2.50 and with tip, $3.00 for each trip. Not bad J

On one venture we stopped at the Casa de los Angeles and played with the under-one-year-old babies for about an hour. Suzanne was already smitten and now I’m besotted

with Daron, who looks like a baby Elvis Presley or a telenovela (soap opera) star; Javier, who is like a little man, with his hair parted and combed tight across his crown; and José Maria who could grow up to be Kevin Costner or his own movie star—such a darling; Irvine is also a doll, but not as active as the others. Magdalena, their care-taker takes up to 8 babies each day, and she actually got to eat her lunch today because we took over the babies for an hour.


I’ve been feeding the street dogs with some success. Tomorrow I’ll bring them real chicken, which has been in the refrigerator too long. But at dinner last night at a little tiny courtyard restaurant on the street beyond Calle Jesus (Calle Jesus is all torn up, the bricks had to be taken out and returned to the original cobblestone when San Miguel Allende received its World Heritage status—to keep its old charm), anyway, at dinner, the owner had the sweetest baby beagle, who must weigh all of three pounds at this point. I had my kibble, so I plied her with one kibble at a time until she was beside herself. She couldn’t get enough. But since she’s probably well fed to begin with, after 12 tiny kibble, it looked like her baby belly might burst, so in spite of her attempt to crawl into my lap and onto the stone ledge with the kibble, I had to cut off her supply.




Friday, September 12, el viernes


Suzanne left at 4 a.m. I have a few deliveries to accept and pay for and an errand en el centro (in town central) to get for her. On the way to and from swimming and these errands, I gave all the leftover chicken and the Pedigree kibble to needy dogs. I gave away the baby sleeper to a mama (indigenas) in the market who had her baby on the floor next to her herbs and vegetables. She seemed very shyly pleased. I gave away my last sweet stuffed squeaky toy (that Jazz thought surely belonged to her) to the shopkeeper from whom I bought some little gifts.


In fact…Jazz. Morgan says she seems “lazy” and might be depressed. She saw all those toys at home I was readying to take away. I’m sure she thought I was bringing them to other dogs…and how could I do such a thing? I will make it up to her as soon as I get home.


Beautiful dogs have become strays here in SMA. Twice today I passed a recently coiffed standard poodle—stray–who was so nervous, he couldn’t stop to accept my kibble or even the chicken. I left some in the street and hope he found it. But it looks like he’s going to run himself to death. He’s very skinny and high-strung. I figure people end their stays in San Miguel and just let their dogs out of the house. A pair of—what look like—cockapoos hang around quite near the casa. I make sure they get food; Suzanne and I saved one of them last night by screaming at a police car, who seemed about to run one down.


I had my last Spanish tutoring session with lovely Norma who helped me with a bilingual English/Spanish manuscript of a children’s book. Norma thinks Suzanne and I have done a terrific job of decorating the house. She loved the combination of loud and clay color of the pieces in the niches.


Mexican Independence Day is Tuesday and everyone is revving up with green, red, and white decorations on the street, in their stores, in their hair. Fireworks at night. I’ll miss it.


So I think I’m finishing up now, this blog that was done completely on Word to be transferred to the blog when I return home Saturday. Or Sunday. I do love San Miguel and I love having made this new and wonderful friend of Suzanne. We really click. We’ll be friends for life, I’m quite sure. I’ll post this and then get on the photos as soon as I have time. There are some good ones.


Posted on July 31, 2008 in Travel by Patricia1 Comment »

I thought I wrote about the hot springs, La Gruta and Escondido (Grotto and Hidden Place), but I can’t find it, but here are the photos. In the 18th century, Padre Alfaro felt the baths had become way to hedonistic, so he built the Atotonilco Sanctuary for the penitentes. To this day, the come on Sundays, crawling on hands and bloodied knees, or creeping on their bellies, perhaps, straight from the baths.

One is not allowed to use a flash camera in the church and I really tried not to, but the camera, despite my highest technological abilities couldn’t keep it from flashing, so I got this nice pic.Sanctuary of AtotonilcoSanctuary of Atotonilco

Posted on July 24, 2008 in Travel by MorganNo Comments »

Time to roll out of Dodge.

Yep, throw all of them thangs in the grips and head back north. That’s what we done.

Arrived  late on Tuesday the 22nd of July safely though beaten up after having taken ground transportation  to Leon and flying to DFW , then to CMI.

Wonderful trip. So much to do and think about. Come on MP, can’t you just enjoy. Nope, recken not – maybe when I’m too old to dream – maybe when I have no more passions and desires – maybe when destiny has finally had its way. All which sounds good to me.

Loved reuniting with brother Tricky Jim (he is distanly related to tricky Dicky Nixon). We can argue like cats and dogs and come out smelling like, well I was going to say something else, but will just call it a rose. 

Best of all was Patty, who tolerated the two old farts who “sometimes” drank too much and sometimes were a pain in the ass. The focused one went about her business of learning Spanish, buying groceries and gifts for kids and friends and having a grand time in that beautiful setting while connecting with people who became our friends. Traveling as you know can be VERY trying on a relationship and we’ve experienced that to an extreme, but we get better at it. As Sartre or one of those exi guys said, there is only one question in life, leaving the obvious unsaid if the answer is to live on. But completely thorough, Shakespeare  told all, and perhaps the same can be said about marriage, decide and then not to reason why. Hey, ‘just do it’ for as long as — 

’tis good to be home with family,  Jazz and jazz and friends and gardens and all the rest. This suits me best. OK, at least until the next time our wander lust pushes us out the door.

adios amigos





Posted on July 21, 2008 in Travel by PatriciaNo Comments »

…as the sun sinks slowly in the west…


…we had a fun party here last night on the deck of Casa Engelbrecht, overlooking the city. Wonderful children’s writer Esme Raji Codell (who read our blog and wrote me because she was on her way to SMA) came over with her lovely family, husband Jim and son Russell. So Esme and I had to travel to San Miguel to meet, years after I read Educating Esme, then Sahara Special and its sequel. And that’s because of the SCBWI List Serve. [That’s: Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators J] So thanks for writing, Esme, just great to meet you. I’m sure we’ll remain friends.


And Suzanne, our new friend from San Francisco, who we met at the Doc Severinsen gig, came, but left the kids at home, and Robert remained at another party to get wasted on homemade tequila. I saw them both this morning at the pool. Robert was suffering suitably for his inattendance at our party. He came by to say goodbye to Morgan and Jim, just a little late for the party. Robert and Suzanne are keepers, for sure.


I made of vat of spaghetti, Jim (Lewis) grilled chorizo which Morgan and I bought downtown, and we had a big fresh salad, all veggies having been thoroughly washed with argentum and cloro drops–a must if you want to avoid turista which was once called Montezuma’s Revenge in the era when my aunt, Tante, traveled to Mexico—in the 60’s, I think.


For the most part we’ve eaten at home as we have Jim’s and our combined kitchens…and, we’re frequently disappointed in the restaurant food. Though, we’ve had a couple good meals out.


After a little brunch at the Biblioteca, where Morgan donated his CDs and I, my book Blossom Tales, Morgan, Jim, and I went down the mercado, where  Morgan and I did the rest of our gift buying. We ran into Natalia, who gave me the gardenias the first week we were here. It’s the third time we’ve run into her and she showed Morgan and Jim her lovely casita behind the market, while I finished choosing silver from Tasco for my sister and niece.


We’ve had a great time, Morgan and I, together. And we’ve had a wonderful time with Jim. And our new friends. Tonight, we’ll eat leftovers, then I’ll meet Suzanne down at Mama Mia’s for a final goodbye. And look at the Parrochia all lit up and looking like Disneyland. Robert is already on his way home to San Fran to work, but Suzanne’ll stay the month with her kids. She asked me to stay on, but I’m ready to go home. We miss our friends and we miss Jazzabelle. Bad. Morgan and I have never both been gone for a month. Will Jazz remember us? Will our friends?



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