Tuesday, May 2, 2017

My Dad turned 95 over the weekend

Friday my Dad, Bob or RAM, had his 95th birthday.  My brother, Carter, called him RAM.  He said he could not go around the office calling him "Dad", so RAM came from his initials.  And it stuck and many to this day still call him RAM.
I had to come up with something special for his big birthday so I went thru a lot of my photos to make a two-sided photo "Birthday Mobile".   The photo above was taken of him at the age of six with his lunch basket.
32 photos hung from ribbons that were attached to a thin bamboo stick that rested on the top of the dining room light fixture.
There was a gap of a few years since many of the photos I shot were slides.
"RAM" in Alaska on a salmon fishing trip with Carter.
In 1948, he put the radio station KBUN on the air in Bemidji, Minnesota and that is where my parents met.  My mom had here first teaching job there, fresh out of school from Miss Woods Teaching College in Minneapolis. They would have breakfast at the same diner and that is when Bob spotted Lorraine.  The rest is history.   They will celebrating their 69th anniversary this June!
His 68th birthday at our first house in San Miguel de Allende.
I found THE perfect cocktail napkin for the occasion, Happy Birthday Handsome!   I had planned a dinner party for Friday and Saturday night.
The first night we had Mushroom Croustades and mixed nuts for appetizers.  Followed by a Caesar salad and a roasted poblano stuffed with shrimp, zucchini, onion and cheese that sat on a roasted tomato, roasted red pepper, cilantro and garlic sauce.
One thing I especially enjoy when entertaining is setting an unusual table.  I  bought these talavera shallow bowls (all with a different scene) in Seville, Spain and I found the vintage linens at an outdoor antique market in Aix de Provence, France.
One of my favorite desserts, Coffee-Toffee-Chocolate Torte, that serves 14 to 16.  You can find this recipe on by post dated August 18, 2016.  The best part of this recipe, besides being sinfully delicious, is that you can make it a week in advance!
My Dad and George have known each other for around 40 years.  Back then, my Dad had the agency, Mullen Advertising and Public Relations in Scottsdale.  George was one of his clients and he created a very successful logo for George's commercial real estate company, Illif Thorn and Co.  Now my parents are living in Denver and George and his wife are here too.  Great stories were told that evening.
Saturday's dinner party, we started with shrimp cakes and a Shiracha mayo sauce and these zucchini roll filled with a herbed goat cheese. 

A different venue for Saturday's table setting...  Mexican plates from Dolores Hidalgo, Mexican wine glasses from San Miguel de Allende, bobble-head horses and cowboys from the Friday market in Patzcuaro, ceramic black and white chickens from Ametenango del Valle in the state of Chiapas and hand-carved wood donkeys from San Miguel.  Pretty festive.
The menu that night was a salad, creamy cornbread cooked in my dad's mother's cast iron skillet right out of the oven and grilled chicken sitting on a bed of julienned, sauteed jicama with a jalapeno vinegar cream sauce.  And of course, the Coffee-Toffee-Chocolate Torte.
Fred and Suzy composed a tremendous two page poem commemorating my dad's life.  Very cleverly written. 
And to top it off , they even made a large poster for him with stickers and such nice praise, "Radio, out doorsman, equestrian, Taurus, Adman, writer, dove hunter, excellence, wit, Mexico, Lorraine, nifty, exceptional, responsible, old school, bone fide, educated, reliable, teddy bear, accomplished, elegant writing, magnificent, unsurpassed, effervescent, nice guy."  Suzy said, that 100 years old will even be better.
It was a great birthday weekend and thank you all for the birthday cards and Facebook greeting!  He loved every minute of it.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Tonina, Our first of many Maya ruins that we visited

After leaving San Cristobal de Las Casas, Tonina was our first stop.  Tonina is one of the best Maya archaeological sites that sees very little visitors. We only encountered three other people and they were from Italy. 
Here is Len standing in the ball court with the rest of my group in the background.
Tonina (Tzetltal Mayan for House of Stone) is believed to be the last major city to succumb to the abrupt collapse that hit the Maya in the 9th century.
Tonina's major construction date to the Late Classic period (7 - 9AD), though there is evidence that the area was populated way before that; a stone monument was discovered dated 583AD.  This ball court is one of the Maya's largest, almost 200 feet long and unique with it's sunken construction.
There was a long rivalry between Tonina and Palenque.   This rivalry is even depicted in the ball court with carvings showing images of prisoners.
The other side of the Ball Court.
The Palace of the Underworld is entered via three step-vaulted arches on the eastern side of the second terrace of the Acropolis.
Ingenious architecture on how the cross shaped windows allowed light into the chambers.
Looking out from one of the passage ways.

Recent excavations at Tonina by archaeologists from Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History have shown the Maya city to be twice as large as predicted, with clearly defined districts, including areas of palaces, temples, housing, and administration.  Originally it had been thought that the Tonina acropolis had been built on a hill, but the excavations have shown that the mound covers a pyramid more than 240 feet tall, with 208 stone steps from its base to its apex. “It’s a big surprise to see that the pyramid was done almost entirely by the architects and therefore is more artificial than natural. This is because it was believed that almost every hill was a natural mound, but recent evidence has revealed that it was almost entirely built by the ancient inhabitants,” said Emiliano Gallaga, director of the site. More than 300 hieroglyphic texts have also been found. Some of them reveal the names of city rulers.

This Stele is very well preserved.
Len in the opening and Greg taking photos.
The stone work is magnificent!

The climb up was steep and thank goodness for our helper!

To give you a little perspective on how high you actually climb, the ball court is marked with a white astrix and the pink one is where I was sitting under the tree.  (Thanks Greg for the photo).

  At the top, this structure is considered one of the tallest buildings of Middle America.

A panoramic shot by Greg.  What a magnificent view.

Another beautifully preserved Stele.
Located on the face of the third terrace of the Palace of Grecas and War is the zizaged cross design said to represent Quetazalcoatl.
The trees were just starting to bloom and leaf out.
The setting could not have been any prettier or tranquil.
The cattle in this area are a cross between a Brahma and Brazilian.
An open air restaurant at the entrance to Tonina is a great place to get an ice cold beer or two.
What a beautiful setting to have our picnic lunch after spending the morning at the ruins.  And what a perfect way to visit our first Maya ruin and practically have the entire site all to ourselves.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Chiapa de Corzo

Chiapa de Corzo was the first place we spent the night after arriving from Mexico City via Houston and Denver.  It is located between Tuxtla Gutierrez (where we flew into) and San Cristobal de las Casa which are connected by the Panamerican Highway and was the first official Spanish settlement in present-day Chiapas, Mexico.

Located along the Grijalva River, the town claims it has one of the largest zocalos (main plaza) in Mexico.  What makes this zocalo so special is La Pila (the fountain).  Constructed in 1562 featuring classic Mudejar (Moorish) and Gothic features.  It is octagonal in shape with eight arches; it is said to resembles the Spanish crown.  It was the Dominican, Rodrigo de Leon, Spain, that was responsible for its construction.  Its circumference is 52 meters and measures 12 meters in height.
There are numerous arches and flying buttresses extending from each of its corners.  There was once a system of pipes that drew water from the river into the fountain's central basin which supplied the town its water supply and was a place for socializing and doing laundry.
It was just recently restored in the last year.
Made entirely of red-orange brick, some in a form of a diamond.
There are portales (a series of arches) on one side of the plaza with businesses and restaurants.  Most towns have the main church right on the plaza, not so here, it is set back from the plaza by one block.
Another important feature is the La Pochota or La Ceiba, the Kapok tree.  According to tradition, the Spanish town was founded around this tree.  La Ceiba can reach over 250 tall with a 10' diameter trunk with parts resembling extension buttresses.   A sacred Maya symbol, it is believed that La Ceiba was a link between the underworld, the material world and the heavens.
The white and pink flowers emit a bad odor which attracts bats.  As the bats move from flower to flower dining on the nectar, they transfer pollen on their fur, thus aiding in pollination. The kapok tree does its own job in pollination, it can produce 500 and 4,000 fruits at one time, with each fruit containing 200 seeds. When these fruit burst open, silky fibers spread the seeds all over the forest.
The wood, light weight, is used in carvings and canoes.  The silky fiber from the pods is a common material used for fill in upholstery.  
Also on the plaza is the municipal palace and the former home of Liberal governor Angel Albino Corzo (statue of him above), for whom the town is partially named. 
It's a pretty little town, a great place to spend the night and the perfect place to launch the boat up the river into the Canon de Sumidero.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Almond Ligonberry Pastries

For Easter brunch this year I served Almond Ligonberry Pastries.  They were a big hit and easy to make.
3 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1 teaspoon almond extract
2 tablespoons Ligonberry preserves
1/4 cup slivered almonds, chopped
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1 8-ounce can Pillsbury crescent dinner rolls (original!)
For the Glaze:
1/2 cup powdered sugar
4 tablespoons milk
1/2 teaspoon almond extract 
In the mixer, blend the cream cheese, almond extract, Ligonberry preserves, half the almonds and powdered sugar.  
Un-roll the crescent dough and separate into 4 rectangles.  Press the perforation on each triangle to seal.  Spread about 2 plus tablespoons of the cream cheese mixture on each triangle.  Starting at the short end, tightly roll each triangle up.  Press the end of the dough to seal.  Chill  rolls for at least 30 minutes.

Cut each roll into 4 equal pieces and set an inch apart on a parchment lined baking sheet.
Sprinkle with the remaining almonds.  In a 350 oven, bake for about 18 minutes or until slightly browned.
While baking, mix up the glaze.  Let the pastries cool, about 2 minutes and drizzle the glaze on them before serving.  
Makes 16.
Don't know where to buy Ligonberry Preserves, try Ikea's food department.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Backpacks for my Chiapas tour were perfect

I had light-weight mesh backpacks made for everyone who went on my Magic of the Maya World tour which I filled with a welcome packet and more.  I used an ancient Mexican bird motif for the logo.  The design was originally created on a clay stamp that was used to decorate pottery.

The welcome bag included our daily schedule, a folder with a map of Chiapas which I had highlighted our journey through Chiapas (kinda like the old trip tickets my parents would get from AAA when we were kids), a city map of San Cristobal de las Casas along with shopping, museum and restaurant suggestions, a page on "fun facts" on Chiapas along with photos, a page on navigating the Mexico City airport, a wash rag in a zip lock baggy with a note reading "Mexicans never forget the tequila in your margarita but they always forget the wash cloth for your bath. Here is one on me.  A wash cloth.  Margaritas later.   Robin    2017", some candy
and my photo book, The Magic of the Maya World.
Over 30 pages of photos that I had taken in Chiapas along with some text.  The above is the back cover of the book.  This is something I do for every tour I lead.
I usually put together the welcome packet and goodies in a mesh bag or when in Oaxaca, I go to the artisan market and buy hand-woven straw baskets with handles.  But for Chiapas, I thought a light-weight back pack would be ideal to put ones camera, bottle of water and other stuff in, especially when you would want to have both hands free when climbing up and down the ruins.
With our back packs on, heading down to the rivers edge to board the boat for our journey down the Usumacinta River to the Maya ruins at Yaxchilan.
And one thing I did not think of until I saw Len, my husband, who joined me on this tour, climbing up the huge ruin in Tonina, is that I could spot him quite easily with his 
orange-colored back pack on.  

The back packs added another fun aspect to a great tour!  

FYI - I plan on leading another tour to Chiapas next year.
February 9 - 17, 2018.   
And I added an extra day in San Cristobal de las Casas.  
If interested, send me an email at robindsg@aol.com.