Wednesday, June 30, 2010

2011 Itinerary for San Miguel de Allende

Meet Me in San Miguel de Allende

Join me in January 11 - 17, 2011 for a wonderful week in San Miguel de Allende. Experience the exceptional treasures of San Miguel; its beautiful colonial architecture, delicious cuisine, native culture, comfortable climate, elegant accommodations, endless shopping and outstanding service. A walking tour on Day Two with lunch at one of my favorite restaurants. One day will be over in Dolores Hidalgo and Guanajuato where we will experience the elegant architecture, the Opera House, Diego Rivera Home & Museum, ceramic studios and a sublime, gourmet meal. Another day we will visit two unique homes in the countryside and the Sanctuary of Atontonilco (often referred to as the Sistine Chapel of Mexico). A cooking class out at the lovely Rancho Casa Luna. Reception, dinner and live music at my home.
And much, much more!
Artisans & Architecture

Join me February 19 - 27, 2011 for a tour of a lifetime. I am offering an "Artisans & Architecture" tour for just this one time. Because of its depth and detailed planning, I will only offer this tour in the future for special group requests. We will spend a few days in San Miguel de Allende. Then leave the rolling hills & mountain ranges of San Miguel and head off to the wooded mountains of Patzcuaro in the state of Michocan.
We will tour Patzcuaro and the surrounding areas.

We'll visit many of the 16th century painted chapels and old monasteries that were part of the Bishop Don Vasco Route.
We will venture out to small villages where you will meet many of the artists; master weavers, artisans in Ocomicho that create the bizarre clay scenes, the craftsmen of the large clay pots in Cocucho, the studio of Juan Torres known for his Catrinas, visit the town of Santa Clara de Cobre where the artisans are known world wide for their copper work, just to mention a few.
You will see more indigenous people in their native clothing in this area!
Back to San Miguel for a cooking class out at Rancho Casa Luna and a day on your own to explore, shop and relax. And much, much more.
Please let me know if you or any of your friends would like to join me next year. Space is limited on both trips and I will need to secure our lodging as soon as possible. Since my party last Friday night, I already have some people signed up for both trips! Buena viaje.

Monday, June 28, 2010

My San Miguel de Allende Reunion Fiesta

Last week I was getting ready for a Reunion Fiesta at my home for all the people that have been on one of my tours to San Miguel de Allende.
This is the invitation that I had made and sent out to everyone. I color enhanced the photo of me and the trio, " Los Comodines" which translates to "The Jokers." Los Comodines played Ranchero music for my group the evening of the farewell reception and dinner on my mirador (roof top patio). A great time was had by all! A few people even got up and danced. (Check out my post on May 14 where I write about the trio and there is even a little video that I shot of them performing)
I hung this "Papel Picado" at my by my front door. I had bought several of them in different designs and colors last October during "Dia de Los Muertos" (Day of the Dead).

I ran up to the wholesale florist and had a hard time deciding on what to buy because everything in the coolers looked so beautiful. I decided on blue Delphiniums, red Gladiolas and green & yellow Burplurm and arranged them in my funky vase that I set on the kitchen counter.The bar was set up with white wine, an assortment of beers, soft drinks and my homemade Sangria. The old Corona cooler really keeps everything perfectly chilled. For about ten minutes, the wind really picked up and there were blossoms and pollen from the Catalpa tree all over the patios. My bartender was busily sweeping up before my guests arrived!
Here's Sylvia assembling some of the tapas for me. I had been cooking for two days and these are the tapas that I made: guacamole and chips ~ deep fried won tons filled with chorizo, golden raisins, roasted pine nuts, blue cheese & Monterrey cheese (a recipe I made up over 20 years ago) ~ wild mushroom crostini ~ pulled pork, onion & queso fresco mini sandwiches with a roasted poblano sauce ~ skewered watermelon & tomato squares drizzled with a brandy, lemon zest & olive oil vinaigrette ~ tuna carpaccio served in Chinese soup spoons ~ AND roasted tomato crostini! No one goes hungry at one of my parties.
I had some photos of San Miguel and my guests put on a DVD that I had running continuously on the TV during the party. Debra, Sharon and Gail are watching through the family room window from the patio. After viewing the photos, we all wanted to jump on a plane and head back to San Miguel.
Some of my guest that evening enjoying the Sangria. Earlier last week, I had my husband, Len, hang the "papel picada" from the corner of the roof to the Catalpa tree. It is actually made of plastic so I am going to keep it up all summer!
Barbara and Debra chatting up a storm about their time in San Miguel when they were on one of my trips.
More of my guests in the back yard.
Here's Diane, Wayne, Cindy and Rick. I am sure Rick was saying something clever. I do know that he said he was going to sneak into my house and steal my Chorizo Won Ton Recipe!
It was a great evening and we all loved reminiscing about our trip to San Miguel and talking about a return visit. At the end of the evening, I gave everyone my Sangria recipe and a preview of my Itinerary for 2011. I already have received some phone calls to sign them up for one of my next tours.
Check out Wednesday's post, for I'll write about my upcoming trips! Buena viaje! Robin

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

A Funky Boutique in San Miguel de Allende

Monday, I mentioned the endless shopping in San Miguel de Allende. MIXTA is one of the special places that I like to shop at. It is a funky, unique little boutique in the historic center of San Miguel de Allende and just a few blocks from the jardin. The decorations hanging from the doorway are different all the time and a welcome sight on the street.
Anna Sinclair, the owner, is a lot of fun and it shows in how she has designed her store and presented the merchandise. Behind her is a great saying that she painted on the wall, "I can resist everything... except temptations." How true!

Mixta has an eclectic blend of art, clothing, jewelry, woven pillows, purses, outrageous greeting cards that you would not dream of sending to your Aunt Millie, decorative items... You name it. Some beautiful textiles and I love the crazy little backpack with the wrestling motif on the front. The bag behind it, is Pancho Villa. Some have Frida on them.

As you enter (or exit) Mixta, Anna painted this clever saying, "I Use To have A Handle On Life... Then It Broke." The flowers in the old wellies are priceless.
Stop by her shop and say hola from "Robin."
Pila Seca 16
San Miguel de Allende, Centro
Open Monday - Saturday, 11:00am - 7:00pm. Sunday, 11:00 am - 4:00pm

Monday, June 21, 2010

The Loteria can be found all around San Miguel de Allende

Loteria, Spanish word for Lottery, is a game of chance in Mexico dating back to the the 18th century from Spain. It is very similar to Bingo. The "board" above is from the late 1800's. You can find this game in a few stores around San Miguel de Allende and some of the little boutiques in town sell funky purses, boxes and jewelry using the Loteria's images.
Originally the Loteria was a hobby of the upper class and later it became popular at Mexican fairs. Today, it is mainly a children's game. It is also used as a teaching tool and by several artists in their creations.
The most famous producer of the Loteria card sets is Pasatiempos Gallo (also known as Don Clemente) located in Queretaro, about an hour drive from San Miguel de Allende. They have been publishing these cards since 1887. The traditional set has 54 Loteria cards. Each card has its own number, name and an image. To start the game, the caller (cantor or singer) will randomly select a card from the deck and announces it by name. Often though, the cantor will use a riddle instead of reading the card's name. For example, Number 46 is El Sol (the sun) and the cantor will call out, "La cobija de los pobres" which translates, "The coat for the poor." I love it! The players will mark their board with a small rock or pinto bean as a marker when they have a match. When a player has four "beans" in a horizontal, vertical or diagonal row or other previously specified patterns, he will yell out Loteria or Buena (good) and win!
Recently the Museo de Las Americas in Denver had a show of Loteria canvases created by a few local artist. These contemproary interpertations ranged from silk screen, wood cut, gliclees, acrylic or a combination of these techniques. I thought it would be fun to look at the traditional card as shown above with an updated image below.

Love the colors and the abstract way the artist depicted the Bandolon.
The Barril is drawn with the colors of the Mexican flag.
I like how the artist has used little Barriles in the background of the canvase.
One of my favorites, El Borrracho. I am sure you know El Borracho translates to The Drunk.
I like how this artist has created Los Borrachos going around in a circle, getting dizzier, dizzier and drunker and drunker!

This is a typical copper Cazo, cauldron, that can be found all around Mexico, especially in the town of Santa Clara de Cobre in the state of Michoacan. The main livelihood of this town is fabrication of copper (cobre) vessels anywhere from vases, pots, cazos, sinks... (This town will be one of the stops on my "Artisan & Architecture" tour in the spring of 2010.)

El Cazo, is derived from the word cazar, to hunt. It's fitting that the three pig heads are in the Cazo. Love it!
La Escalera, the Ladder. Makes sense that the escalator is called that.

Very clever on how this artist went outside the box and made his interpretation of the Loteria card three dimensional.
I bought this little vinyl bag at a cute boutique in San Miguel. I have used it several times in the last few weeks and I get at least a couple of compliments on it every time I go out.

One of the many special things about San Miguel is the creative people and the treasures one can find in the boutiques and shops around town. It is a shopper's paradise. Always something new and different.

Join me on one of my guided tours and you will see first hand what I am talking about!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

June 19th is a Big day in San Miguel de Allende

Today, June 19th, is a big day in San Miguel de Allende not for the locals but for my parents, Bob and Lorraine Mullen. For it was SIXTY-TWO years ago that they walked down the aisle in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
They met in Bemidji, Minnesota where my Dad was starting Bemidji's first radio station and my Mom was starting her first teaching job.
Here they are taking off on their honeymoon. And the honeymoon hasn't stopped.
My Dad's career has been all about writing. Over the years he has had the good fortune to write for newspaper, magazine, radio, television, cinema, direct mail, the web and a ton of collateral materials - brochures, annual reports, speeches, papers. He still writes very actively for hire and for himself.
It was one of his writing projects for the Mexican tourism bureau that brought them to Guanajuato, Mexico. He was hired to write the script for a film on the Cervantes Festival. With some free time on their hands, they hired a driver and headed over to San Miguel de Allende. Enchanted by the town, they rented a house for the summer and I went to one of the art schools, the Instituto Allende, where I studied fabric design, jewelry making and weaving. That summer, 35 years ago, they bought a charming, colonial house just two blocks from the jardin (the main plaza). That is when my love affair with Mexico, especially with San Miguel, started. Thanks Mom and Dad for taking that side trip!
This photo was taken two years ago in the courtyard of our home in San Miguel when my brother and I hosted a 60th anniversary party for them. You would not have believed all the flowers they received that day. Now, two years later, they are at the casa celebrating 62 years of marriage! Way to go Mom and Dad!
Happy Anniversary!!!!!!!!!!!!! Feliz Aniversario!!!!!!!!!!!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

San Pascual watches over my Kitchen

No kitchen is complete unless you have a statue or retablo of San Pascual. He can be found in practically every kitchen in San Miguel de Allende.
Pascaul Babylon was born in Torre Hermosa, Arragon, Spain in May of 1540. As a youth, he was a shepherd but not a very good one. While he prayed, his flock would wander off and wreak havoc with the neighboring vineyards. Reluctantly, he was taken into the Franciscan monastery in Loreto, Italy. Due to a lack of education, he was given menial tasks such as cooking. He later impressed the Franciscan's with his strong devotion to his faith and eventually was allowed to join their order.
I found this San Pascual in a little store in San Miguel. It was hand carved and then painted with such a lovely, but simple design.
San Pascual is the most elusive subject in retablo art. This painting was done by an artist and friend, Renato Pacheco Rivera, who lives in San Miguel. Since San Pascual is the patron saint of cooks and the kitchen, he is always depicted, as he is here, surrounded by all the kitchen paraphernalia... a stove, pots & pans, fruits & vegetables and his kitchen cat.

I have been told that if his image is present in your kitchen, your food will always turn out delicious and you will never go hungry! It's always worked for me.

Buen provecho and keep on cooking!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Margarita Madness

Last Friday I had a little get together at my home with my lady friends from the water aerobics class at the Denver Athletic Club. We have had this on the calendar for months. Postponed once due to cold and rainy weather. If you can believe it, it did rain that night but it certainly did not damper our good time. Before everyone arrived, I arranged two little centerpieces with sunflowers & purple statice, made the tapas, squeezed the lime juice for the margaritas, mixed up a few batches and had the bar all set up and ready to go. I made the guacamole right in the molcajete which is the perfect serving vessel; a bit heavy though.

I have perfected my margarita recipe from the 35 years of having a casa in San Miguel de Allende; 2 parts tequila, 1 part Cointreau, 1 part fresh lime juice and 1/2 part simple syrup (sugar water). Please, NO margarita mixes and always use fresh lime juice. I also like to put a mix of salt and raw sugar on the rims of the glasses; not too salty, not too sweet.
Knowing that I would be serving margaritas, the gals came prepared to spend the night!
Time out for a group photo: Mary, Annie, Lizzy (the best water aerobics instructor ever!), Anne (birthday girl), Melinda, Helene and Jennifer.
Jennifer and Kelly making a toast. I served quesadillas in one of my ceramic platters that I had bought in Dolores Hidalgo which is about 30 minutes north of San Miguel de Allende. The filling for the quesadillas were caramelized red onion, cilantro, mango, roasted jalapenos, goat cheese and Monterrey jack cheese.
These skewered watermelon cubes with a slice of cherry tomato on top are so refreshing. Plus, what a great presentation, especially with the blue and white plate! I drizzled them with a vinaigrette of olive oil, brandy, lemon juice & lemon zest. Then a sprinkling of Maldon sea salt (my favorite) and a few buds of lavender. Annie and Melinda posing for the camera in between margaritas.
Helene talking away while Esther is thinking whether she should have another margarita!

Before coming home from the office, my husband, Len, stopped at Chelo's downtown and picked up two dozen tamales and two quarts of their green chili which has a real kick to it. Later on, a few of the ladies husband's stopped by and we just turned it into a whole evening affair!

If you want a good laugh, check out the little video ( click on the purple - Video ) that I shot of some of my friends (and my husband) doing animal noises. With a few margaritas and a little egging them on, I can get them to do almost anything! What a great group of ladies, we all had a great time, it was a blast!!!!!!