Christmas (Navidad) in Mexico

While this is not our first Christmas spent in Oconahua, it is our first as full time residents and that is one more milestone for us. I do miss my family and friends and wish they were here, but I do NOT miss the stress that is constant this time of year in the states. The frenetic pace of the holidays encouraged me to test alternative celebration practices for many years as I became discouraged with the focus on material things.  Some worked and lasted (baking cookies with family and friends and giving them away) and some fell by the wayside (handmade gifts often bombed).
Our first Christmas was about 8 years back when I brought India and my mom here to celebrate. In those days, our house was not complete so we stayed with Luci for a few days and then headed to the coast for a few more days of beach time.
Turns out that the weather is completely different here than the coast although the drive is only 3.5 hours away. Oconahua is in a volcano zone and the elevation is around 4500 feet above sea level and does get rather chilly in the winter at night.  As a result, mom got quite ill and I vowed never to bring her back in the winter months; she is quite content on the coast where she stays nice and warm.
For a great perspective on Navidad in Mexico, visit another blog which I haved linked here: Surviving Mexico as she explains things so well and I could never explain better.
Here are some pics from Christmas Eve and the last Posada which was sponsored by donations from Oconahuans living in the states. Enjoy and have a safe New Years celebration!

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Pinatas are a huge part of many celebrations and this girl beat the heck out of a santa one! Look at him fly.

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Massive amounts of food and treats are prepared for the celebration.  For this one sandwiches, cupcakes, jello, punch (while I did not eat the food because I was full from dinner, I did drink punch which was a strong hibiscus tea with fruit and nuts…delicious) and other candies and sweets.

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Two boys enjoying their meal after the formal celebrations are complete.

Making Cornbread with our Dried Blue Corn

I was curious if we could grind the dried corn into a flour or corn meal fine enough to bake so I got myself a grinder, set it up and experimented with various settings. image I found that in order to reach a medium kind of grind, I needed to run the corn through at least 3 times and adjust the grinding wheels accordingly. image image At the end of the 3rd grind, I sifted out the larger parts and put them in the chicken feed.  A search on the net brought up a lovely recipe for corn bread baked in a skillet and after a short time out of the oven, most of the bread had been eaten as it was delicious! image

Winter Gardening in Mexico

Ana jokes that in this part of Mexico, you can carelessly throw seeds on the ground and food will grow.  Well, after laboring in gardens in the Pacific NW to eek out a few tomatoes, I will say that it almost true. It has been fairly easy to grow plants so far in a small area of our ample yard.  With some help from friends that brought us seeds (and with seeds that we had at a relatives house), we have our winter garden growing strong.
The north part of the yard is sunny most of the day with a narrow patch along a long brick wall.  Our 6 foot high wall helps keep warmth reflected on the garden patch and several old tequila barrels that have been sawed in half.  We re-used the old metal frames which are used in Mexico to create arches for doors and windows during construction; the frames now hold the barrels up off the ground to help keep bugs and chickens at bay. 
We now have green beans, garlic, 2 types of kale, green onions, lettuce, broccoli and several herb plants growing steadily.  Satisfying.

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I was also curious if a lemon tree could grow from seed as its almost impossible to find lemons in Mexico; most people use limes. I now have small starts and anticipate at least one should grow to maturity.

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Wifi in the House!

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Seriously…..we have been here full time for 4 months now and getting internet access for some of our electronic items has been challenging.  If you desire a wireless connection, you need to drive to the next town and sit in the plaza and connect to the free wifi….or go downtown Oconahua and pay a small fee at the local interent place to hook into theirs.
We have had a slow connection that is similar to Clearwire where we have a modem on the roof and it picks up the signal from a local antenna.  We pay 200 pesos per month which is about 17 dollars, more or less.  The challenge has been the slow mini mac, the only device we could use to hook in to the cable as Ana was told it was a weak signal and would not support wifi.  Apparently there was a communication challenge months back or something as we saw another person in town had a wifi connection in their house. We bought a router, pluggged it in and now we can use our other devices!  Yippee…..books can be dowloaded to my nook, I can use my tablet and Ana can connect to FB faster.  Now we may never go outside again.

Visiting Mom in La Penita, Thanksgiving!

A little bit late for posting but….Ana and I drove to La Penita to visit my mother for Thanksgiving.  After visiting her last month, I declared that she HAD to get an AC unit to cool down the house as we find the heat absolutely unbearable.  I was delighted that she agreed and now there is an AC unit for all visitors to enjoy so they do not need to suffer in the hell weather of the coast and all it’s humidity.  Sorry Mom but now maybe more of us will visit.

The drive is not a difficult one as we take the toll roads and they are always well maintained and fairly traffic free.  Ana drove most of the way as I enjoyed the scenery…I love the part where we drive over an old lava flow; pretty cool!  The last 30 minutes or so are the most difficult and tricky with the twists and turns through the jungle leading to the coastal área.  We made it safe and sound with our fantastic Toyota Tundra; love that truck!

The morning of Tday, we all drove south toward Puerto Vallarta and shopped for some hard to find items in our small town.  I had a long list to search for and we did find most items at the various stores along the way including Home Depot.  Yippee!

That evening we joined old and new friends for a laughter full night of excellent dining, tall tale swapping and idea formation as we shut down the restaurant and bonded with one of the owners who encouraged our organic food growing journey.  Since my back was to the wall, I did not even notice the old movies that were projected behind me all night….a fine event indeed; great food, excellent company and a relaxing time.  Here is their website:http://www.xaltemba.com

We also hung out at Petra’s cafe, a German themed place.  Here is her site and all the expats hang out there.  Petras Cafe

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Tour of the Ocomo in Oconahua

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There is an archeological dig happening right now in Oconahua (called “Palacio de Ocomo”) and has been active for several years now.  Ana and I have visited the site a few times over the years and since it’s not really open to the public yet, we simply approach and ask for a private tour.  Eventually a museum will be built on site and more tourists will come to the town; in the meantime it’s an interesting perspective on a site in progress.

Michelle, the archeologist, is in our English classes and was our tour guide for Sylvia, Ana and myself.  As excavation occurs, each stone is unearthed, marked and then re-constructed with painstaking effort.  The site is HUGE and sections are worked slowly.

For the history and background of this site, visit:  Ocomo.