Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Christmas Greetings From My house to Yours

Decorating for Christmas is such fun and I love it.  A big wreath going to my backyard.  But where is the snow?
My wreath on the front door with poinsettias, red berries, blue plaid and silver ribbon, silver balls and boughs.
 We have had this Fraser Fir tree for three weeks now and it is still so fresh.
For years I have been collecting the House of Hattan ornaments.  Unfortunately they have been discontinued for years.
I love the "maid a milking".
I love blue with my Christmas theme.
These black ceramic angles playing an assortment of instruments came from San Bartola Coyotepic which is south of Oaxaca City, Mexico.
The bar is ready, especially with my favorite Spanish wine, Aalto!
Garland around the fireplace mantle with an assortment of birds and bird houses.
The kitchen counter has my Santa collection along with some tiny twig rain deer that were made in a small town that I go through from the airport in Leon, Mexico to my home in San Miguel de Allende.  The twig rain deer line both sides of the road in this town, some are over six feet tall. Now that would be a little difficult to get on the plane.

Wishing all of you a very Merry Christmas!  
And Feliz Navidad to all my friends in Mexico and Spain!

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Chihuly At Night

The other night we bundled up and went over to the Denver Botanic Gardens with our friends, Judy and Denny.  It was getting close to the end of the Chihuly exhibition and we really wanted to see the sculptures lit up at night.  Above is the Blue Icicle Towers.
The Summer Sun was brilliant against the dark sky.
Pretty cool to see some of the lily pond frozen over with the Monet Pool Fiori amongst the snow and ice. 
The Red Reeds were probably one of the most successful sculptures lit up at night.  The reeds had more depth and intrigue in the dark sky than during the day.
And I liked how the silhouettes of the people stood out amongst the reeds.
The White Tower came to life in the darkness.  During the day, it seems to have gotten lost with not much punch as the other sculptures.
Where as the Boats and Balls on the ponds were lost in the night, the Turquoise Reeds came to life against the orange wall.  
From a distance, the Saffron Tower was somewhat medieval, like a tower out of the movie, Lord of the Rings with its glowing facade with wild vines holding it in bondage.  Actually it is the trees in the foreground that give the tower that magical look.  For scale, take a look of the man walking in front of it.  
 On a closer look, the Saffron Tower takes on new life. 
Denny and Len, Men in Black, with the Red Cattails.
It was interesting to see the sculptures lit up at night.  Many preferred the night time viewing where I loved the sculptures the best during the day.  The vibrant glass pieces against the blue, blue Denver sky was breathtaking and the mirrored reflections of the boats and balls were spectacular.  Overall, it was one of the best shows the Denver Botanic Gardens has had and they have had some winners over the past few years.
To view Chihuly during the day, see my post dated July 16, 2014.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

A great Thanksgiving along with hints on making the perfect cheesecake

I had a wonderful Thanksgiving this year with family and good friends!  I cooked for three days and had the table set the day before.
My Dad (Bob), Fred and Suzy.
Judy, my Mom (Lorraine) and Denny.
And the best, my husband, Len.   Len had a roaring fire going in the living room where we had appetizers and drinks.  Even though it was a gorgeous day in Denver, the fire added that special touch.
For one of the appetizers, I made a cheese ball of mascarpone cheese, white cheddar, cream cheese, fried sage leaves and roasted almonds.  Just before serving, I rolled the ball in pomegranate seeds.  Makes for a festive appetizer for the holidays!  Going forth, I would make it in a log shape, easier to cut into.  I tried another new recipe, a tuna pate, that was okay but not worth making again.
Two weeks ago I made 98 butternut ravioli and froze them.  For Thanksgiving, I served one ravioli with a brown butter, sage, roasted pistachio and two crushed Amaratinni cookies.  I used espresso cups as the serving vessel along with spoons from my grandmother Mullen's spoon collection. Needless to say, it was a big hit.
The trick to a really tasty turkey is to cut jalapenos in half, de-seed them and slip them, cut side down under the skin around the breast area.  Such a great flavor!
I was determined to make the perfect cheesecake without and cracks or a collapsed center.  
There are many factors to take into consideration to accomplish this.  Grease the sides and bottom of the spring form pan with butter. Let all the ingredients come to room temperature.  Do not over cook the cheesecake.  Fill a baking pan half way up with water.  Put this pan on the rack below rack where you will put the cheesecake.  Bake the cheesecake in the middle of the oven.  I cooked it for exactly 50 minutes.  I proceeded to turn off the oven, open the door and let the cheesecake rest in the oven for about 20 minutes.  Once I had it out of the oven, I ran a knife around the sides to insure that is was not stuck to the sides.
As you can see, it turned out perfectly.  Light, creamy and delicious.  For the recipe, see my post dated December 13,  2013.  
After dessert and a little Spanish Cava, we returned to the living room and played Gestures.  Talk about a lot of laughs.  It was a full afternoon and evening, people arrived at 4:00 and left around 10:00.   I'm so thankful for my husband, my parents and such good friends.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

An Oaxacan Adventure in October 2015

An Oaxacan Adventure

I have put together an eight day guided tour 
in Oaxaca and the Oaxaca valley for
October 4 - 12, 2015.

For those who have been on my San Miguel de Allende tours and 
my Artisan and Architecture tour in the state of Michoacan, I know if you join me, Oaxaca will also capture your heart.
The main plaza, the zocalo, is one of the most spectacular in all of Mexico with its gazebo that usually has mariachis or a marimba band playing in it at night, vibrant cafes and restaurants lining the plaza on the main and second floor, the Cathedral on one side, towns people visiting...  We will be staying right in the heart of the historic center of Oaxaca City at the colonial Hotel Parador San Miguel.

One morning we will explore Monte Alban, the Zapotec ruins that was founded around 500 B.C..  At its grandest, over 25,000 people lived here.
The architecture in the Oaxaca valley is diverse from this brilliant painted church in Ocotlan,

to the 16th century monastery in Cuilapam de Guerro, the Baroque Santo Domingo Church in the historic center of Oaxaca with its amazing ethnobotanical gardens off to one side to the Contemporary Art Museum that is in a beautiful colonial mansion dating back to the late 17th century.

We will take in a cooking class one day which includes a shopping tour of the market. 
Oaxacan cuisine is some of the most interesting and colorful in the world.
It is known for its use of Queso Oaxacan (string cheese), chocolates, tlayuda (shown above), empanadas with squash blossoms...
Famous for its numerous and diverse moles.  And its mezcal.
We will visit the City of Oaxaca market, the true spirit and soul of Oaxaca with the indigenous people dressed in their colorful clothing.
A real stimulation of the senses.

We will visit many of the Oaxacan masters in their villages such as the Aguilar Sisters famous for their ceramic figures, the weavers in Teotitlan de Valle and the Angles family world renown for their hand-carved wood and beautiful painted Alebrijos (animals).
There is an abundance of museums:  Rodolfo Morales Museum in Ocotlan.  Rufino Tamayo Museum, Museum of Oaxacan Culturers, M. Alvarez Bravo Photographic Center,
Museum of Textiles and Museum of Contemporary Art in Oaxaca. 
There is even a Stamp Museum, the only one in the country. 
There are cutting edge galleries in the historic center of town.  
Lovely climate and fabulous restaurants. 

Oaxaca has maintained its artistic identity.
The culture, folk art, contemporary art, music, native dress, cuisine....
An adventure I would love to share with you.

An Oaxacan Adventure in October
October 4 - 12, 2015.

For a more detailed day-to-day itinerary and pricing, please send me your mailing address and I will send you all the information in the mail.

Robin Mullen

Sunday, November 2, 2014

The Panteon in San Miguel de Allende is a spectacular site on Dia de Muertos

November second is a busy day in San Miguel de Allende, especially at the cemetery, The Panteon.  On any other day, this street is deserted with an occasional car or pedestrian.  But being All Souls Day, their is a steady stream of families going to the cemetery to decorate the tombs and visit with those who have passed on.
All these temporary little stalls are selling a variety of flowers, painted tin cans to hold the arrangements, crosses and fruit.  All to be purchased as offerings to passed loved ones.
 Cotton candy for the children.
This lady is making individual bouquets all with the flowers representing Dia de Muertas:   Marigolds (Flores de Cempasuchil), Cockscomb (Cresta de Gallo) and Baby's Breath (Aliento de Nino).
It is a busy place.  The priest is giving mass over a load speaker. Families are gathering around the grave sights.
Musicians are waiting to be hired to play a favorite song of the passed family member.
Talk about color.
Beautiful combination of colors. So simple but heart warming.
Tiny little table with a meal on it along with plates full of food.
Another colorful sight.
Over the top!
The graves sites have been scrubbed and a fresh coat of paint applied.  Flowers planted.  All in honor of their passed loved ones.

And last but not least, is the North American section which is very tidy and orderly.  Just like an English garden.