Monday, December 31, 2012

Another Year Over and a New One Just Begun


Photo: Christmas comes to the Plaza in San Miguel

San Miguel Christmas 2012

Courtesy of Todd McIntosh Photography


I have taken a page from the blogs of Marc, at An Alaskan in Yucatán and Steve, at mexpatriate — in the key of steve and have decided to take a look back over my experiences of the past year. Having moved from Patzcuaro to San Miguel de Allende not long before Christmas last year, 2012 was year of changes and discovery for Todd and I.

After several years in Patzcuaro, we had developed a comfortable lifestyle with lasting friendships and memories. I had become quite involved with the kitchen at “El Sagrario”, which feeds the poor and elderly. Todd and I had also become involved with a large group of girls from the Esperanza Orphanage in Mexico City. We had developed ties.

When we first moved into our house in Manjerrez de Mexiquito we had two households worth of furniture. The rental property, which is considerably smaller than our previous one, was furnished and we already had furnishings for a full house. Although we had a storage locker, the furniture in the house sat stacked half way to the 30 foot ceiling for almost 3 months, until we were able to negotiate the removal of the landlord’s furnishings.

Somewhere along the way we discovered that among the pile of furnishings lived a little gray kitten. His coat has now turned jet black with a little nutrition. For him, it was an ideal cave out of the cold, with 3 square meals a day pilfered from the ever-full dry food dispenser. In the post Finding The Feline I described how this little fellow became a member of our family, which already included 2 cats. After a great deal of scrapping and jockeying for position they have now settled into a (reasonably) happy family unit.



Kashmere (with a K)


We now have just a tiny walled back yard, and with the weather being so much warmer here than in Patzcuaro , I thought that what little gardening I was likely to do would be a snap. Think again! The post Gardening 101 San Miguel de Allende tells of how shortly after moving somewhere in the vicinity of 50 potted plants and trees, in many trips in a tiny trailer, from Patzcuaro to San Miguel, we had a cold snap in November of 2011 and most of them died.


front porch 002

The Resurrection


A Day In The Life describes, what I can now look back on, as a hilarious episode in which I was moving cartons of soup from the kitchen to the freezer, that could only have been improved upon by the presence of Lucy and Ethel. However, Another Day In The Life… shows just how much things can change from one day to the next.



Wildflowers In Bloom


  Finally, I think San Miguel de Allende sums up how the year has brought new opportunities and surprises. We are enjoying life here and are looking forward to whatever 2013 has to offer.



Bar at Hank’s Louisiana Cafe


tiletrip 055

Good Morning San Miguel!


Happy New Year!

Saturday, December 29, 2012


I was just reading a post by Joanna at Writing From Merida about how we used to send Christmas cards each year, and it sparked a notion of how much our lives have been affected by the rapidly changing technology that surrounds us every day. Don’t mistake me, I am not complaining. I love the fact that no matter where I am, I am able to be in constant contact with the people most important to me.

Last night I chatted with a friend from Vancouver for about an hour and we were using my Vonage line so we aren’t even charged long distance as it is a Vancouver number. The connection was such that she could have been right down the street rather than in another country. My friend is hoping to make a last minute trip to visit us here in San Miguel and as we chatted we both sat in front of our computers checking airline flights and prices.

Obviously this is nothing out of the ordinary, but were my grandmother alive today, I suspect she would disagree. As a young woman my grandmother, Mabel, walked from the Peace River Country to Vancouver, alongside a covered wagon. She carried a rifle under one arm, a baby under the other, and I’ll bet she would have loved to have stepped onto an airplane. This was about 1915. Less that one hundred years ago. (and about a year before the railroad made it to the Peace River Country)

Mabel was a strong women who took things in stride. The matriarch of our family, little phased her, and in her lifetime she watched as electricity became available to everyone, automobiles replaced horses, the Wright brothers put us in the air and man landed on the moon. However, I think even Mabel would have marveled at the leaps and bounds technology has made since her passing.

All of these wondrous inventions have made our lives easier and changed them forever. There is no turning back, not that we would want to, but I think we may have lost something along the way. Prior to the Laptop, iPad and iPhone, kids played outside and used their minds to create games. Without the media they remained kids longer. Adults went for a walk after dinner, chatted about their respective day and speculated about their futures. A date might have included a drive-in restaurant and a porch swing. Dreams somehow, seemed grander. Maybe we’ve become a little jaded.

I am an avid reader and I LOVE my Kindle, but that does not mean I don’t appreciate the warm feeling I get from a comfortable chair in a book lined den. The presence of the books are as important to the whole as the comfortable chair and the fireplace. It’s so easy to send a greeting card over the internet and I know from having received many that the feeling of gratitude for being remembered is the same as if I held it in my hand. But there is still something about that mantle from my past, lined with lights, garlands and Christmas cards……..

Saturday, December 22, 2012

December 22, 2012…..and we’re all still here.




Well the 13 b'ak'tun, or 5,125 year cycle of the Mayan Calendar has run it’s course. What now? Writings from the Jaguar Priests suggest that we can expect a visit from the Supreme Being (teacher), the Feathered Serpent, K’uk’ulkan, (Quetzacoatl). However, the more modern belief seems to be that rather than a return or reincarnation, that the people themselves will rise in character to take on the attributes of the supreme being. That, in essence, we will undergo a spiritual evolution resulting in a higher plain of consciousness. Wouldn’t that be nice?



Hunab K’u


The later Mayans believed that the Milky Way Galaxy was the generator of life and that "Hunab K'u," was the true creator and “One Giver of Movement and Measure; the Absolute Being”. Hunab K'u gave the Maya the seven power centers of the human body through which they channeled  the energy of the cosmos.


Kundalini Awakening


Interestingly enough, there is a distinct parallel between the Mayan’s 7 centers of power and Hinduism’s kundalini ("k'ulthanlilni" in Mayan), and the seven chakras, the body’s centers of energy. According to Hindu teaching the serpent-like kundalini, an unconscious or instinctive force, lies coiled in the triangular sacrum bone at the base of the spine and can be “awakened” by yoga and meditation sending energy through the 7 chakras. The Mayan k'ulthanlilni begins in the Earth, moving to the spine and then sends energy to the 7 powers.

The Mayans were very attuned to nature and the cosmos utilizing meditation, yoga and ritual. In the Zuyua language, which actually incorporates birdsong, the word "y'ak" means "language" while the reverse, "k'ay", means "song" and the word for flower, "l'ol" literally means vibration and consciousness.

So many people around the world assumed that because the Mayan’s “Long Count Calendar” has ended that the world must end. The Mayans, it seems, had other ideas. Astronomy professor Maud Worcester Makemson, said in her  1951 translation of the Chilam Balam of Tizimin, that “The completion of a great cycle of thirteen b'ak'tuns (12/21/2012) would indeed be an occasion of the highest expectation.” This does not sound like the end of the world to me. The Mayans aspired to a more cerebral and spiritual existence and this was their expectation at the end of 13 b'ak'tuns, not Armageddon.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Tlalpujahua; Christmas All Year Long


Earlier this week I put up the Christmas decorations and decorated the Christmas tree. I love our Mexican Christmas tree, as I have collected ornaments from many different places around Mexico, and putting them on the tree always brings back wonderful memories of our travels around the country.


xmas 2012 FB

Christmas 2012


I have beautiful copper miniatures from Santa Clara del Cobre, tiny ceramic bobbles from the Feria de Artesanias, held each November in Lake Chapala, large hand painted globes from Bucerias, and of course, the fabulous hand woven decorations from Tzintzuntzan. Lovely poinsettia embroidered runners and place mats from the Yucatan grace our dining and living room tables.


Christmas decorations 2012 005

Happy Memories


Although, perhaps the most interesting pieces come from Tlalpujahua, Michoacán. A former mining town, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries it was one of Mexico’s major producers of gold. Disaster struck in 1937 when a major landslide of mud and debris buried about a third of the town and badly damaged the mine, effectively terminating the town’s main source of income.


The Monarchs of Michoacán


However, the town survived and in the 1960s, a young resident named Joaquín Muñoz Orta began making adornos navideños, Christmas tree decorations. Today, the company has about 1,000 employees, five plants and fifteen workshops. It is the largest operation of it’s kind in Latin America, and one of the five largest worldwide. About 70% of the town’s economy now comes from Joaquín’s factory and about 150 small workshops that produce beautiful Christmas items all year long. I love a good success story!


Tienda Casa de Santa Clause – The Santa Clause Shop



Tlalpujahua is a charming town with narrow cobbled streets, red roofed stone houses and colonial architecture. As with so many other colonial towns it played it’s role in the War of Independence, in the form of  Ignacio López Rayón,  who formed an insurgent group after the death of Hidalgo called the Suprema Junta Nacional Americana.

He and his brothers  were responsible for fortifying the Cerro del Gallo Mountain and holding it until 1813 when royalist troops took Tlatlpujahua and forced the evacuation of Cerro de Gallo. Another supporter of independence, Father Juan Antonio Romero was executed in Tlalpujahua, before Francisco López Rayón took it back in 1815. In 2005, the town was justly awarded the status of  Pueblo Mágico.


Municipal Palace, Tlalpujahua


Christmas has been a little different since we moved to Mexico but in the last seven years we’ve built new memories and adopted new traditions. The traditional turkey, stuffing and cranberry sauce is lovely, but so are tamales, camote and ponche. And don’t get me started on buñuelos !


Buñuelos, Christmas Treats, Mousepad

December 2012 photo from our calendar,

A Year In The Life Of Patzcuaro


My husband Todd is a very accomplished photographer and I always want to share his work so I have compiled some of the wonderful photos that he’s taken here in Mexico and we found a way to put them on products like calendars, mousepads and cell phone cases. If you are interested just click on the pictures below. I’m sorry, as with most other areas of my life, my timing on this could have been better. If you want a calendar for Christmas, you’d better hurry. LOL


Patzcuaro Calendar
San Miguel Calendar

Wednesday, December 5, 2012


back yard December 2010 005

It is a beautiful day today and as I puttered in my garden several things occurred to me. The first being, “Oh my gosh it’s December”, a fact that never escaped me when I lived in North Vancouver. The temperature in my little back yard hovers around 23 or 24 degrees centigrade (75-78 F) and although we've not had any rain in quite a while, Todd has worked his magic and the lawn is still lush and green.

As I weeded the pots and plucked dead flower blooms my mind wandered back to December in North Vancouver when I was a child. Long before global warming had raised it’s ugly head, our home on the side of Grouse Mountain was usually snowed in by this time of year. There was a huge tree in the basement, drying out, and each morning I would ask if we could put the tree up today. I’m sure this amused (or irritated) my parents as I knew they never put the tree up before Christmas Eve.

One wall of the living room was picture windows which looked out over Princess Park and the one directly across was brick. The brick wall held a huge corner fireplace and a wood box large enough to play in when it wasn't full. I used to like to sit on the flagstone hearth in front of the roaring fire and look out at the winter wonderland that was my playground at that time of year. The nearest neighbour was a good walk away and the little road in front of the house was not well traveled so the silence of the landscape under a deep blanket of snow was profound.

It is likely that I had been playing in the snow so the hearth was a wonderful spot to sit and drink hot chocolate while warming up with my Irish setter Roxy, who would come in with large snowballs hanging from the feathers on her tail and belly.

Fast forward…..A lazy December afternoon in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. There are cats sunning themselves on the lawn or chasing butterflies among the flower pots on the wall. The bougainvillea seem to be at their peak and the geraniums, calla and cana lilies are striving to compete.

back yard December 2010 003

Christmas huh?

Yesterday we went to see the latest James Bond movie which, by the way, I thought was great. The best one made in years, but I digress. The shopping mall was elaborately decorated for the season and Christmas music rang out cheerfully from all the stores.

back yard December 2010 011


The nights are getting cold now, here in San Miguel, although not so much as last year. Yet. The winter blankets have found their way out of closets and hang, freshly washed, on the line. In the evenings we are snuggling under an electric throw blanket while we watch TV. Still the Christmas spirit is eluding me this year.

Last year 4 friends from Patzcuaro ( and a son from San Francisco ) joined us for our first Christmas dinner here in San Miguel. In Patzcuaro we usually had a full house at Christmas. There were quite a few single people who, for whatever reason, had not gone north for Christmas that joined us at our house.

I imagine that this year will be a little quieter and perhaps that is why I had actually forgotten that Christmas is almost upon us. However, today Todd brought home a big box of Walker’s shortbread from Costco and some door hooks to hang wreaths, so I think it is time to drag out the decorations and put up the tree. That should jump-start my Christmas spirit!

back yard December 2010 019

Merry Christmas!