Start the Day Right. World-Class Oatmeal.

I ask you, “What could be a more right way to start the day than to wake up and find breakfast already cooked?” I personally like that very quality about this little breakfast that I whip up a couple of times a week. It is 4 servings, and leftovers keep in the fridge.

And, by the way…I apologize for neglecting this blog. I have honestly been pretty fascinated with Instagram and have been spending time learning to love my iPhone camera. As to FaceBook, I am still avoiding engaging. Somehow, the whole Instagram thing seems to have helped me get over a creative block, and one of the creative things I’m getting into is cooking. It’s hard to get in a cooking groove in a town like San Miguel de Allende, where there are so many good restaurants that are affordable and fun. (For example…Aguamiel.) But, there is nothing like a good home-cooked meal and an evening of just hanging in the house.

But, let’s get back to breakfast. Fred and I rarely go out for breakfast. We both like to eat and read the news and just sit around a bit before we officially start the day. So, we have leisurely mornings. But, sometimes I’m not in the mood for a lot of cooking, and I’m happy to have this ready. If you find your mornings rushed, this one is just right for you. You start this one the night before. It is wheat-free, sugar-free, dairy-free, and full of goodness.

In a pan on top of the stove, heat 2 T. coconut oil.                                                                                 Add 1 large green-skinned apple, chopped.                                                                                             Saute the apple for about three minutes, then bring 3 cups of oat milk to a boil.(Or any dairy-free milk of your choice. Just no rice milk because it is made with white rice and turns to sugar quickly.)                                                                                                                                   Add a good sprinkle of cinnamon, salt to taste, and 1/4 tea vanilla.

When the  milk comes to a boil, add one cup of steel-cut oats. Turn off the heat and put a lid on the pan. If you are stoned, double check on turning off the heat, otherwise you’ll lie in bed and think about it. This recipe is to help you look forward to getting up and pretending that the cooking angels have visited your kitchen over night. Now, when you get up in the morning all you have to do is heat this up, put it in a bowl, and top it with chopped pecans. Buen provecho.

Why I Had to Quit FaceBook and Learned to Love Instagram…in just a week.

One day a couple of weeks ago, I just snapped. That’s how I have made many important decisions in my life…I snap and zap. This time it was FaceBook that finally pushed me in a new direction. I had progressively (no pun intended) gotten so extremely tired of all the USA politics on FaceBook. All my “friends” that I actually see are either liberals, or they are keeping it zipped. Anyone that I know and like and suspect that they are a Republican, I unfollowed until after the election. That’s because I really want to continue to like them. If they are someone I didn’t actually know, I just unfriended them. So, I wasn’t seeing pro-trump stuff, I was seeing anti-trump stuff….but, I was seeing it and seeing it and seeing it. I was tired of a steady diet of all this. Since I think you are what you eat, I also think it goes further than that. You are what you consume, no matter through your mouth or your mind. It was just trump…it was like the Bad News Gazette. I lost two actual friends who were Bernie supporters because I refused to allow anyone to post anything negative about Hillary Clinton in response to one of my own comments. Enough said about that.

And much of the reason I quit FaceBook was because of what I felt it was bringing out in me; my worst possible side. Every time I looked at my newsfeed I would end up pissed off, and twice I put up such scathing comments or posts that I immediately took them down. I was starting to see FaceBook as a big billboard that I owned and I often had the urge to just post “Fu(k You.” It really was fueling my anger in general. That is not healthy for anyone, although some people seem to thrive on it. To each her/his own.

I also must say, FaceBook was capable of bringing out my best side, too. I found myself compelled to get involved with people in order to make them feel better. I found myself really caring, and sometimes feeling a bit drained emotionally. I was sending unsolicited private messages, cheering people on. It got to be too much.

I have continued to check my own wall, and certainly to use FaceBook Messenger, a very good communication tool. I will still put up links to my blog on FaceBook because some of my friends who check that they like my blog posts seem to be too lazy to actually Follow it. Which, of course, makes me wonder if they read it, or just like the pictures. I truly think that social media has taught some people to be incapable of reading more than one or two sentences. I think this will profoundly affect the next generation’s ability to concentrate and read, and that is too bad. Hopefully, maybe, I’m wrong….

But, speaking of liking the pictures, most of the pictures I posted on FaceBook had been through a great deal of PhotoShop and nothing was spontaneous. I am a perfectionist and capable of spending hours on PhotoShop….removing things that shouldn’t be in the pictures, and making myself and others look more fabulous than we really look…especially pictures of me.

I had started an Instagram account sometime in 2012, but hadn’t done much with it. I would do a random post every now and then but it was always something I had taken with my Fuji camera and mailed to myself, since you can’t post from your computer. I didn’t really understand or connect with Instagram. Until I did. After my adios to FaceBook, I started to explore Instagram. I love its spontaneity. I have a whole different set of standards for my Instagram posts, and perfection isn’t on the list. I am capturing moments, and the words are no longer the point. I love photos and I love words. I will continue to use my blog for literary expression, and when appropriate, I will post photos from my camera with my blog. But, this time, instead of mailing a perfect photo from my computer to my phone, I am emailing a wacky selfie from my phone to my computer to use on this post. This is what my Instagram posts are like. The caption here is “Girl on the Run.” “Chica a la Fuga,” in Spanish.

This brings up another issue between FaceBook and Instagram. While there are many friends from Nashville I enjoyed keeping up with on FaceBook, I find that Instagram opens up more ways to connect with people and images from around the world. (And I’m not talking about the weirdos that show up in friend requests on FaceBook. I’m talking about people who take amazing photos.)  I am connecting already with many people in Mexico, so I will post my photo comments in both English and Spanish. I am not being pretentious, I am trying to be bi-lingual, one of my reasons for moving to Mexico. While I lived for many years in Nashville, I am now a resident of Mexico. While I used to love walking from our house to Burger Up, I am not all excited about “The New Nashville.” In fact that was one reason I needed to leave. I needed changes in imagery and changes in energy.

I thought when I had my Brokeback Mountain moment with FaceBook that I would free up a lot of time. I did. I must confess, however, that I am spending a lot of it learning how to use my phone camera and how to use Instagram. Learning is learning and it keeps the mind alive. Plus, I never do anything half-way.

I have made a couple of guest appearances on FaceBook during this hiatus. Fred sometimes finds FaceBook posts that he can’t resist telling me about. Kind of like offering an alcoholic a martini. One of them was so fabulous, I had to comment. I have cruised my newsfeed a couple of times in a moment of lax discipline. I sometimes, on purpose, look at Jerry Rife’s wall because he is such a wonderful photographer and his work inspires me. I always check my messages, and here you go with a blog post. There may be more blog posts, because…well, after all…you know (if you’re my FaceBook friend) that I have many opinions and I do love to run off my big mouth.

If you would like to follow me on Instagram, it’s just margaretellis. For now, I won’t be sharing these photos to FaceBook.

 

 

A Little Trip to Sicily in the Campo of San Miguel

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Justin Marino, Laura’s husband and partner in creating wonderful events. This guy can do more things than I could list. Again, a whole other story. Laura Buccheri is in the top photo. She is the force in the kitchen, but she is so charming and beautiful you’ll love her appearances in the dining room as well.

The most exciting thing that I know about that is happening here in San Miguel on the restaurant scene is the soon-to-be-opened Trattoria da Laura, in a new facility at Rancho Los Mezquites. This will serve as an event space for private parties, and I did notice a helicopter landing pad as we drove around the property. But, the good news is that Laura and Justin will be open by reservation  for  an early Saturday dinner (sunsets will be spectacular) and Sunday lunch, to all us hungry souls who are yearning for some of her out-of-this-world cooking.

Fred and I had the pleasure of visiting with Justin and Laura the other day for lunch, which in itself was a pleasure. They live not far from the new restaurant/event space. We had visited them before when they lived further out in the campo. Many people in San Miguel will remember them as La Cucina di Afrodita, when they opened the patio of their home and served lunch on Saturdays and Sundays. Fred and I made it to one of those and it was a delightful afternoon. But, the thing that blew my mind was seeing Laura cook and work her magic in the tiny kitchen of the house.

That is all about to change…and change in a big way. The new building has a magnificent kitchen underway. It is about a 15 minute drive from Centro, and I can already see us there on a Saturday evening watching a sunset as only San Miguel can serve, or perhaps heading out for a Sunday lunch and some time in the wide open spaces that surround San Miguel. But the main motivation for this drive would be to enjoy the cooking and hospitality of Laura Buccheri and Justin Marino, a beautiful couple from Sicily who ended up in Mexico.

All of their many enterprises remain under the brand of La Cucina di Afrodita, and they are very busy right now. In addition to the restaurant, they do a service called Chef at  Home. They will come to your house and wow your friends by preparing the food on the spot. They are also available for catering for your events. They have a  collection of special hand-made cheeses from Justin (who is also an expert with olive trees, and that expertise is what landed them in this happy situation. But, that’s a whole other story). They will be opening another San Miguel venue for sampling a bit of their wonderful food creations at the Mercado Sano, a food haven that’s about to open where the original Don Pedro’s was. It will be called La Spaghetteria, and I think the name says it all. It should open in August.

Much of the produce served at Trattoria da Laura will be grown on the rancho where they live. The menu will be mostly Italian, and will change every week. They are keeping alive the wonderful atmosphere of the meals they used to serve right out of their own small kitchen…the community table, where people can make new friends, the excellent and personal service, and the feeling that you are at a lovely dinner party in a home. To quote Laura, “It’s really not a restaurant. It is more like you are coming to my house to eat. I will decide the menu. Just trust me.” And, I have to say that every time I have had a chance to do that, I have always left with a smile.

Parade of the Locos…and a nice party

The photo here is Fred waiting for the parade to start. The quiet before the storm.

Fred and I really enjoyed viewing the parade today from a roof top. It was fun to see, but I would have been overwhelmed to be in the midst of it. There were thousands of people from all over Mexico who showed up in costume and filled the streets. Thanks to Plata for a lovely rooftop party. I ended up liking the pictures of the people at the party more than the pictures I took of the parade.

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Women of a Certain Age. Part 5

This is the final part of this series. For now…The woman pictured here was selling hats on the square at Patzcuaro. Fred and Pinky and I took a recent trip there for a few days just to check it out. I have a friend here in San Miguel who has a wonderful hat from Michoacan, and I did have the idea of hat-shopping on my mind. Most of the hats that this woman had for sale were pretty generic, but there was a pile set aside that had the feeling I was looking for. I saw the perfect one. I tried it on. Perfect fit. It now appears on my head in my FaceBook profile picture.

This lady has a certain air about her. I don’t think she messes around much. I seriously doubt that anyone messes around with her. She was wonderfully dressed, in the Old Mexico style of the women you see further south. I somehow managed to get the nerve to ask if I could take her picture. I loved the way she looked. She said okay, without registering any emotion one way or the other. The fact that I hadn’t tried to bargain with her about the price of the hat probably earned me some points. There is something in a face like this that says, “I see through all the crap. Don’t waste my time.” I snapped three and my nerve ran out. This is the one I like.

I have no idea how many years on earth this woman has accumulated. She could be younger than me. I don’t even know her name, or any part of her story. I just know when I look in the mirror at my own face, I would like to see more of this kind of strength.

 

Hometown Girl

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Morganna Love was born in San Miguel de Allende. I wish I knew more about her story, as what I do know fascinates me. At some point Morganna, who was born male, fully transitioned to female, and became the beautiful woman in these pictures. As a young man, the person who became Morganna also was training in classical opera. There is a documentary film, which I haven’t seen, about her transition, “Made in Bangkok.”

Last night this hometown girl came back to San Miguel, and a reception was held for her at Plata, a new club on Zacateros. This club is the brainchild of a couple of very interesting women, Lady Zen and her partner Lilia Garcelon. I met Lady Zen and Lilia recently at brunch at Aguamiel. I had been curious about their new venture and when I was invited to this reception I decided it would be a good night to check out the scene there. It was a lovely evening. Morganna talked and answered questions. She also sang. It was hard to believe the size of the voice that came out of such a petite woman. I was completely taken by her talent, beauty, and poise. She will be singing at the Angela Peralta Theatre, in concert with Xavier Gibler and the Choir of the Opera, here in San Miguel on June 9. I have been told that the town loves her, and that was pretty evident by last night’s attendance. It was a large crowd in a fairly small room and she held everyone spellbound.

Having been visiting San Miguel for a few years before we decided to live here, I had often wondered why there wasn’t a place here that catered to the LGBT audience. I think that Plata has filled that need. And, it is pretty obvious that there is a need for just such a place. But, Plata felt like much more than a bar. It seemed like a community. The crowd was mixed, in all the ways I could name. I would say that most of the people there were young, and Mexican, but I also felt that any like-minded person would be welcomed there. I certainly felt welcomed. The mood was very sophisticated. This club isn’t just about entertainment, it is also about education. They present many different art forms, and give the performers an opportunity to interact with the audience. I think some evenings just involve a DJ, and dancing.

The room is on the ground floor of a Lebanese restaurant, and you enter by walking down some stairs. It truly does have a bit of an “underground mystique.” They have done a very good job of putting the space together in an artful way. There were beautiful flowers in the room, lots of little treats being passed around for the reception, and Lady Zen and Lilia were the perfect hostesses. It was a event befitting a diva, and the diva held up her end of the deal. She was charming throughout the questions and answers, and her singing was compelling. I hope to go to her concert tomorrow night. I am sure it will be an evening to remember.

Plata. I am glad to find such a place in San Miguel, and I will definitely visit again.  It isn’t just another new bar in a town that is quickly exploding with new bars and restaurants that have a big city feeling. It is place that is filling a genuine need, and seems to be off to a very good start.

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Lilia Garcelon, one of the masterminds behind Plata. She is a performance artist, dancer, and describes herself as a “nightlife personality.” Not to mention she is extremely photogenic.

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Lady Zen. The other half of the energy behind Plata. She is a wonderfully outgoing personality, and quite a singer herself. I saw her perform last fall and I haven’t forgotten how impressed I was.

 

Women of a Certain Age. Part 4.

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This woman has appeared in my blog before. The story behind these photos is fascinating to me. And, I hope I have my facts straight. I don’t know the women’s names in these photos, but I do know a little about the older one. I put this info together from talking to a few people, doing a little internet research, and actually meeting her son.

The story goes that this woman started in business by selling scarves that she had woven. She took her very young son with her when she went to sell them. She was not only a weaver, she is also a businesswoman. When she saw that she couldn’t get a fair price for her labor and materials, she decided to cut some corners. Many craftspeople in Mexico have done that. The major work, the real quality pieces, can take days or weeks to complete. I don’t fault them for earning a living, and I have some pieces that I really love that I’m sure were done by machine.

Her son, Remigio Maestas Revilla, took a different route. He has devoted his life to changing the economics of weaving. He now has many weavers he works with throughout the small villages of Oaxaca and he presents and sells their work at a price that is fair to them. In his own way, he is keeping alive a vibrant craft tradition. He has a few stores around Mexico, among them, two in San Miguel de Allende. (One is on Correo, just off the square…Los Baules de Remigio. The other is on Recreo…Juana Cata.) The work he carries is extremely high quality, and exquisite. It is all done completely by hand, and uses natural dyes. His main store is in Oaxaca City is Los Baules de Juana Cata.

And his mother, the older woman in these pictures, also has a large store in Oaxaca City, a few blocks from her son’s store. After inspiring her son to preserve the old, tradition methods, she is still motivated to give the customer a bang for her buck. She carries room after room of Mexcan clothing that may not be made in the traditional ways, but is still very appealing. The stitching is done by machine, and the price is not enough to worry about. You can put together a completely wonderful look for not many pesos. Personally, I love these clothes. I think this woman has a real eye for fashion, and knows how to put the inexpensive pieces together for a real statement look. She is a real success story, whose  legacy will be carried on by her son and his children. I visited her store several times while we were in Oaxaca. She is quite a salesperson as well. She greets you at the door and starts to show you things in rapid order. You find yourself trying things on right in the store. If you buy several pieces you will probably get a little discount, and the colors are so bright and the prices so low…..you will leave with a full bolsa.

Then you might find yourself in one of Remigio’s stores. All the merchandise is in impeccable order. Each piece is a unique work of traditional craftsmanship. The colors are from natural dyes. They are beautiful, but much more subtle. No one rushes to show you things. You browse around and think about which piece you would buy if you wanted a splurge. One night Fred and I were there and he bought a scarf for me. The shopping experience was very delightful. The scarf came with a little tag about where it was made and who made it. Remigio, his wife and two children, were in the store. I was somehow able to communicate how I appreciate the work he does. And, that I am familiar with his mother, a true example of a Mexican woman entrepreneur.

Feliz Cumpleaños, Frida Kahlo

This is a link to a post about this same subject.

Women of a Certain Age, Part 3.

This lady is one I see frequently on the street in San Miguel de Allende, usually helping out a flower seller who works near a sidewalk cafe. There is something compelling about her. I was pleased and rather surprised when she agreed to let me take her photo. She doesn’t have the strong, outgoing personality of the woman in the first of these posts, and she doesn’t seem to have the confidence of the woman in the second post of this series. In fact, in this woman I  always sense a feeling of vulnerability and shyness. I always say hello to her. Sometimes she holds out her hand to me, sometimes she doesn’t. When she does, I always find some pesos for her.

As a woman growing up in the USA I have certainly dealt with issues of strength and vulnerability. I have always thought that a woman could be one or the other…strong or vulnerable…but not both at the same time. My life in Mexico has taught me that only when we realize our vulnerability can we really find our strength. As a child growing up in a fairly dysfunctional situation I always felt vulnerable. The same vulnerability carried over into my first marriage. I was always expecting someone to come in the door in a really hostile mood, and even if it had nothing to do with me, I always felt it was my job to fix it. At around age 35 I managed to see that I could also be strong, and I saw being strong as the key to my survival. I saw strong as good, and vulnerable as not so good.  My experiences in Mexico have helped me to see that I can actually be strong even when I am most vulnerable. In fact, the only way to be truly strong is to be able to accept my vulnerabilities, love that scared child within me, and then to find my strength. I now see that we cannot really know our strengths until we also see our vulnerabilities. It is the ability to see both these sides of ourselves that matters most. So many women, especially women like me (old enough to have been strongly affected by the Feminist Movement..and to know what life was like before it), are not willing to see how vulnerable they really are. It’s always got to be Wonder Woman, all the time.

I don’t know the difficulties that some of the women I see here experience every day. I don’t know their joys. But, what I see is their magnificent survival. It is a simpler life here, and people aren’t all worked up about impressing each other. There is a kindness of spirit that I see in the faces I meet on the street. There is a shyness, just waiting for me to make the first move and say hello. I suspect they wonder about me sometimes, too. While I know that our lives have been very different, I also see more each day how similar we are.

One of the most important things I have learned about living in Mexico is that I simply cannot judge the lives of others. Many people come to a country like this and think that somehow the people’s lives are inferior because of the standard of living that they see. But, wait. Stop and look. This is not inferior, it’s just different. If you can put aside your own standards and expectations you can find a world very different from what you have ever experienced, but a beautiful world, nonetheless. And, you can look inside yourself and find strengths you didn’t know you had. And, when you need to feel vulnerable, you can just do that, too…without judging yourself at all.

Women of a Certain Age. Part 2.

This photo will never cease to amaze me. What amazes me is that I got it. This woman walked by me in the twinkle of an eye. We were in a large market in a village in Oaxaca. It was packed with local people, and a beehive of activity. People were selling things, looking for things, buying things…..things including live chickens, all sorts of food, clothing, household goods, motor parts, vats of a nasty local moonshine called pulque….you name it. From the midst of all the confusion, I started to go down a little flight of stairs, from one area to another. At that moment I saw this woman, and she saw my camera, right in her face. Instead of turning away, as many of the women here are likely to do, she gave me a beautiful smile…a little pose. She even found her light. Then she was gone. I got one shot at this one, and it was sheer luck. Or perhaps I should say, a magical blessing.

The feeling I came away with from this instant was the confidence of this woman. She is who she is. I asked Fred last night if that phrase, “Vanity thy name is woman,” came from the Bible or Shakespeare. (It was Shakespeare.) There is something about this woman that has caused me to think about my own vanity. Not to be too hard on myself, because working in the fashion/art business in the USA can sure cause a woman to want to look as young as possible. I certainly did. Almost everyone I hung out with was also concerned with this. And, most of them were a good 15 t0 30 years younger than me.   And, if you want to true confession, I always wondered why anyone who had access to that kind of technology wouldn’t do it if they possibly could.

Please don’t misunderstand me. I am not at all critical of having a little work done. God knows, I’ve had a bit. I am not sorry for doing any of it. I just wouldn’t do it at this point. I have come to realize that the right people don’t love you or like you because of how you look. They love you because of the way you make them feel. And, in this culture, the attitudes about age seem very different. Elders are respected. The grandmothers are powerful members of the family unit.

I have been away from the assistance of needles, lasers, and all the other wonderful help with this situation since October. It’s definitely available in San Miguel and it’s about time for a fill-up. But, I’m not going to do it. I am becoming happy with my face the way it is. In this culture I feel no real need to look young; I just want to look healthy and happy. And, of course, I’m not “cashing in my chips.” If you know me you know I love make-up and dress-up. I just am starting to feel that I can feel comfortable with the way I actually look and come across as a 73 year old woman at the same time, and that’s ok. In fact, that’s remarkable.

Women of a Certain Age. Part One.

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I am so moved and amazed by the older women I see in Mexico. There is a strength of character in their faces. Some of them have lived hard lives, but they are a true inspiration to me. The lady in these pictures is Publita, I see her occasionally on the streets of San Miguel. I always stop and give her money. She gives me a smile. She has so much personality. She seems like a force of nature. I know very little about her, but I always look for her when I am out and about. What a wonderful face she has. I am going to show you five women in this series. They are just the ones I have been lucky enough to capture. There are many more that got away. All of these faces have made me change some of my ideas about aging. I no longer see it as something to dread. I see it as something to aspire to.