Saturday, July 31

agua por favor?

Something that you'll hear people complain about the most down here (besides the dry season heat) is the water system. I'm not sure why it's so complicated but there are so many days where - poof! - suddenly there's no water coming from the faucet. Not that you need it for have to buy bottled water of course (unless you're a fan of raging digestive problems). But there are some days you just want to take a shower (hot or freezing), or times when you want to brush your teeth without having to ponder - maybe it's the cistern? maybe I forgot to turn the pump on?

Whenever I go home to visit - I get a little paranoid about drinking tap water. That's a side effect of living down south. But for all of you who have it made, turn on that faucet and drink up! 

Tuesday, July 20

to-do list

I may have mentioned it before - but I have lots of free time down here in Cuernavaca. Classes get me up early only to end an hour and a half later (and don't resume until 7pm) - leaving me dressed, ready to be productive, and with nowhere to go at times. I've made it this long (because I'm not one to NOT be productive...I'm a list-checker type of gal) because of Jaime, coffee dates with friends, yoga classes, and online research about visas/wedding vendors. But lately I've felt that I need to spice it up. And while I'm in Mexico where everything is 5x less expensive...I need to take full advantage (eg. I pay 40 pesos - $3.33 per 1-hour yoga class)!!

Help me decide what to do next:

a. get my certification to be a yoga instructor 
b. take a class to learn how to sew clothes (I've accepted that I can't just make it up)
c. learn how to weave baskets out of palm from the artisans in the market
d. watch Jaime's mom cook and post all of her recipes on my blog
e. learn another skill that you recommend...
f. all of the above

Saturday, July 17

chicky babe

I was walking downtown to take the bus over to Jaime's house after work today. To my surprise (but not really after being here for almost a year), the hot items being sold on the street were...
...chicks. Green chicks. Bright blue chicks. Pink chicks wearing tiny baseball caps. It was comical and a bit frightening. I got on the bus wondering what those babes would look like all grown up and how exactly they painted them that color! Yikes!

Thursday, July 15

rompope for real

Don Agapito says - try some rompope!!
It has been done. A liter of whole milk & 10 eggs later...I have come up with a yummy rompope prototype. I first tried this creamy beverage in Jaime's homepueblo and it's dangerously delicious. And when I say dangerous - I mean, don't drink this if you have high cholesterol. Here's the ingredient list:
•Ingredients to make a JELL-O flavor of choice - maybe raspberry or piña colada? (gelatin is optional but commonly eaten with rompope) Go ahead and make this whenever you can during the rompope process.

•1 liter of whole milk (4 1/4 cups)
•1 stick of cinnamon
•2/3 cups of white sugar
•10 egg yolks
•1/4 - 1/2 cups (to taste) of liquor of choice (cane alcohol, rum, brandy)

Alright - if you haven't been scared off by the contents of this delicacy - let's continue! In Mexico they have a vanilla gelatin that has a milk base (does that exist abroad?) so I started boiling milk for that alongside the whole milk for the rompope. As you let the milk heat up on a medium flame - toss in the sugar & cinnamon stick. You're going to let the milky mixture bubble up slightly then lower the heat to let it simmer for about 15 minutes. This is a good time to take out a book because you need to stir the milk regularly to prevent that icky film that milk likes to create when heated. Rompope likes a lot of attention - just FYI. I took out my current Michael Pollan book and wondered what he'd say about this eggy drink...
After 15 patient minutes of stirring - take the cinnamon sugar milk off the stove and let it cool to room temperature. This is a good time to break open your eggs and separate out the yolks. This was also the perfect moment for me to realize that I could try to make angel food cake with my leftover egg whites. Lesson learned: do NOT attempt to make angel food cake by manually beating the eggs without a whisk. Your dessert will be compact and nasty. Moving on...

Ok - milk is room temperature, right? Take out the cinnamon. Whip your eggs yolks for a second and then slowly pour them into the milk pot while stirring. Incorporate everything well and then return the rompope to the stove. Keep the heat niiiice and low. I kept the rompope on the heat only until I saw a little steam rising up - no simmering, no boiling (about 6 minutes - and don't forget to stir!). After cooking my eggs once inside my rompope - I had to be extra careful this time!  
You'll see the rompope thicken up a little bit while you heat it up this second time. However, the real thickening happens when you let it cool down. So after those 6 minutes of constant mixing (think of it as a little arm workout) - put your Latin eggnog on the counter and let it cool off. Try a little...delicious, riiiiight? 
Here's my rompope cooled down a bit and with a richer consistency. Now's the time to add the alcohol, yaaay! I used pure cane alcohol - but I next time I'm going to use a dark rum - I'm sure the flavor will much deeper with a little Bacardi Oro. Just keep adding & tasting until you think it's perfectly perked up. Throw it in the fridge and by the time your JELL-O is set, your rompope will be ready for enjoyment! I like to put a little gelatin in a teacup and cover it with my milky creation. Sunday morning, Tuesday night - anytime is a good time to nab a cup! Think I'm going to have some right now!  

Tuesday, July 13

50¢ joyride

Can you imagine one of those three-benched vans made for 12 people (Marquette LIMO style)? Shrink the size of the van down about 25% and mentally rip out all of the seats in the back (leave the driver comfy in his seat). In their place, imagine skinny upholstered benches - covered with plastic - that go around the rim of the inside of the bus. Now envision 20 people stuffed in there (3-4 standing) and put me, the only non-Mexican, in the back corner. Yeah - right by the window. To be fair, there are other, larger buses for the more frequented routes. But this is my transport (when I give Jaime a break from his chauffeur gig) and it's a rush.

I don't think any other experience can compare to this in the way it's helped me learn about Mexico (except maybe chatting with Jaime's mom while she cooks...and being engaged to a Mexican doesn't count). I can safely stare out the window at all of the amazingly south of the border sights...

•mangos for sale at the market - 1 kilo for 10 pesos! (2lbs for 80¢)
•intense PDA from two too-young-to-be-doing-that Mexicans
•grandma carrying two oversized bags of produce
•two men checking out the pirated movies & music stand
•a crowd enjoying an afternoon snack around a makeshift taco stand
•woman selling homemade sweet bread from a basket

As crazy as it sounds...I'm going to miss being sardined in the bus with other courteous locals (yes, I'm a local now). You can't beat this type of cultural absorption - and all it takes is some courage and 5 1/2 pesos.  

Monday, July 12

mexican 4th!

What do Mexicans do for the 4th of July? Absolutely nothing. What do Mexicans with US girlfriends do? Something like this:

Strategically place the white heart sprinkles (left over from Valentine's Day) on your fiance's carrot flag cake.

Enjoy a delicious meal of hotdogs, watermelon & salad while listening to country music with these lovely ladies.

And of course, same as any other day - play soccer.

Brownie points for anyone who can tell me when Mexico's Independence Day is (and it's NOT cinco de mayo).

Tuesday, July 6

almost rompope time

Here's a quick picture preview to get you excited for the rompope recipe I promised way back when (Alicia - you still care, riiight?). These photos are from our second (first successful) attempt at the spiked Mexican eggnog. The first time we simmered the milk and added the eggs before letting it cool enough...imagine a milky scrambled egg concoction. Yum. 

You can see Mama Yadi getting those egg yolks ready & me enjoying the final product. Buy a dozen eggs at the farmer's market and I'll meet you back here soon (still tweaking the final formula). 

Friday, July 2

mini marts everywhere

One thing that's totally different about Mexico & the US is that Mexico still has tiny tienditas, little stores, on every. corner. Imagine those quaint shops that your grandparents might have frequented...the little soda shop, barber, fruit stand, etc. The locales that their neighbors owned. That's still the thriving business around here - you sell veggies to the Gomez family and you use the money to buy notebooks and pencils from Gomez Papelería (paper store)...and the cycle continues. It's quite nice because you are obviously supporting local business instead of throwing money at Walgreens or Target. However, there are times where the smallness and limited availability of the stores is frustrating (especially for the instant-gratification lover in me).

Example: If you haven't checked it out - I've started a Mexican jewelry business on Etsy. ( After hearing about a package mishap, I told Jaime that I think somewhere around Tijuana - there's a Mexican whose job is to sit on, mistreat, throw around and squash all packages entering the US. Wanting to protect my precious orders - I said, ok...let's find some sturdy boxes and bubble wrap. Would you believe it - 30 seconds after I said that we spotted a "plastic store"...a magical little shop where you can buy bubble wrap by the meter (think Michael's fabric section divided by 100 and instead of fabric...all types of plastic). 

Feeling great about that find - we started off on our laborious box search. After hitting 5 neighborhood paper stores without any luck, we decided to go to the man - Office Depot. Not even the great office supply warehouse could provide us with what we needed. However, the pleasant clerk told us we could go through their used boxes in the back room. Jumping on the opportunity, Jaime took charge fishing for small packages and we left with 10 semi-sturdy! Guess you can make your dreams come true here too - kinda. after searching for 3 hours. and being very resourceful. and patient...

Disclaimer for anybody who might want some tagua earrings in their wardrobe...your package may have "3M Banderitas" stamped on it. And your jewelry box may be protected by egg carton that we got from our mini market friend down the street. This type of wrapping is eco-friendly and cool, right? Or is it just plain trashy?