The Three Meanings of Noche Buena…A Christmas Tradition or Three

Noche Buena; Three Very Different Meanings.

If you have lived in or visited Mexico regularly at the holidays, then you have heard or seen the words Noche Buena. Did you know that these two words,  that literally translated, mean The Good Night, have three very different usages.

Most of us know that Noche Buena most closely means Christmas Eve. December 24th in Mexico is the culmination of the hustling, bustling holiday season. Families large and small, religious and secular gather to open presents, play games, and at midnight enjoy a sumptuous feast. There are traditional foods like bacalao, a dried salt cod, ensalada betebel (cold beet salad), and turkey. Each family add and subtract foods that please them or not. The meal can last for hours. Christmas Day is a day of rest and clean up. Here in La Paz, there will be fireworks on December 24th. And the Malecon is often closed to traffic on Christmas Day. It is sweet to walk and enjoy our beautiful city. If you are lucky enough to be invited to a Noche Buena celebration, take a long siesta. Have a light snack and commit to staying up late. To be invited to a family celebration on December 24th is indeed an honor.


Take it from a Gringa that knows, don’t skip that nap! Wear comfortable clothing and enjoy!

For weeks now, nurseries, grocery stores, and roadside stands have been laden with poinsettias, also known as Flor de Noche Buena, or Noche Buena for short. The poinsettia is native to Mexico and grows in various areas, including the Pacific Coast.

The religious connotation and the association with Christmas hales back to a 16th century legend about a poor, young girl name Pepita who had no gift to bring to celebrate Jesus’ birth. She said an angel told her to gather weeds from along the road and place them at the altar. From those weeds,  crimson flowers with yellow centers bloomed. Franciscan friars of the 17th century used the flowers as part of their religious teachings at Christmas. They said that the golden centers and star shape symbolized the Star of Bethlehem. And the crimson flowers the blood of Christ.

Aztecs used the flowers for red dye and as an antipyretic…a substance to reduce fevers. Commonly considered toxic, the plant can be an irritant to skin and eyes. But an Ohio University study shows no problems with even extremely large doses.

Today, poinsettias come in hues that range from pink, to a creamy white, orange, speckled, and the traditional red. Joel Roberts Poinsett, the first United States minister to Mexico imported the plant to the U.S. in 1825, and it bears his name.

Third generation American poinsettia cultivator, Paul Ecke, Jr., went into overdrive to promote the family’s specially grafted full and compact plants, and until 1991 were the sole producers of the plants you see everywhere. He sent free plants to television stations to use on the air from Thanksgiving to Christmas and was a guest on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson and the Bob Hope show. He was linking his plants to Christmas using the best marketing media of the time.

Ubiquitous, but beautiful, the Noche Buena is a truly Mexican symbol of Christmas.

What could be better than an icy cold brew? And what could be better than a beer that is produced once a year in late fall and disappears just about the time the first Christmas toy breaks?

A rabbi once told me that he never partook of the holiday delicacies outside of the holidays. He said that if eaten at any old time, these special treats became mundane.

And so it goes with the golden, caramel flavored, bock beer called Noche Buena. This beer is brewed by Modelo and Bohemia, each one from a different brewery. They come boxed in 12-packs, and if there are any left on the shelf in Chedraui or Mega, grab them while you can. They will not be available for another year. For years, the only Noche Buena beer that I saw was Modelo. Last year and this year the Bohemia version is all that I can find. It is a lovely beer, smooth, and dark with a nice golden head. If you like dark beer and you want to enjoy a Mexican holiday favorite, you will not be disappointed. The alcohol content is a robust 5.3%. The pretty, dark  bottle is smaller than usual, the label golden with a fiery red  Noche Buena.

Heineken was recently given permission to sell  Bohemia’s Noche Buena beer in the U.S. And you can bet that it ain’t gonna be cheap!

So, when your first-timer guests arrive, you can sound like an old Baja hand and explain to them the three meanings of Noche Buena.

Feliz Noche Buena!



Over the River and Through the Woods, A Baja Thanksgiving

Over the River and Through the Woods…

The table is set, the bird is cooked, just waiting for the guests.

Over the river and through the woods? Well, more like avoid the pothole, dodge the bus, and find a place to park. And once you have done that, a succulent turkey dinner awaits… now. Not so, a few years ago.

Back in 2000, a watershed year for Boomers decamping to Mexico, Thanksgiving was very different here in the City of Peace. There were very few restaurants, and hardly any of them served a traditional and tasty American-style Thanksgiving dinner.

In fact, horror tales were told about folks sneaking turkeys across the border so that the family could be fed. Then some scrawny frozen turkeys made their appearance in the old CCC (now Chedraui) grocery store. Okay, they weren’t Butterballs with pop-up timers, but they were turkeys. But, even after there were turkeys, there were no roasting pans! No, really! To be fair, the pans eventually arrived several months later, piled high at the ends of the grocery store aisles, probably courtesy of Safeway dumping its overstock to make room for BBQ supplies. Smart shoppers and planners scored a foil roasting pan or two and put them away for the next Thanksgiving.

Shopping back then was an exercise in communication and creativity. When someone was shopping for the holidays and they spied whole cranberries in the bag, the drumbeat would go out over the Coconut Telegraph, and in half a day all of them would be gone. Yams (camote in Spanish) were plentiful, but inconsistent – sometimes wonderfully sweet, sometimes woody. There were canned yams on the shelf, over in the fruit aisle, and those would do in a pinch, but what about stuffing? No Pepperidge Farm Savory Stuffing mix was to be found, so some Bimbo white bread was pressed into service. Now we have access to artesanal bread, Orowheat thousand-grain bread, and various stuffing mixes to fill the bird.

Friends and family from 4 nations!

Canned cranberries will NEVER grace the table of My Beloved. But Thanksgiving without cranberry sauce is unthinkable. So having read about how the tuna, the red fruit of the pitahaya cactus has a cranberry-raspberry taste, I bought some, cooked them up and passed them off as cranberry sauce. No one noticed; they even complimented my very tasty sauce. When they asked, “What did you put in them?” I enjoyed the baffled silence that followed my answer: “Tuna.”

You newcomers who complain that you cannot find a free-range, grain -fed, happy-to-its-last-day organic turkey do not know what suffering is! Two years ago, there was no Libby’s (or anybody’s) pumpkin puree. There was no pumpkin pie served at most of the restaurants in town. Cheesecake is good, but not so much on Turkey Day.

If you are so inclined you can find all the fixin’s for a traditional turkey dinner to cook at home, and you can even watch the Macy’s parade and a football game or two.

If you’d rather not cook, there are all styles and prices of turkey dinners available at many restaurants in town. After years of cooking for our group of 6 couples, and in the year we built a house, I announced there would be no turkey cooked at my house. I was worn out. Salmon I would do. But no all-day turkey and fixings marathon. The guest all worked, and would come home to my house redolent with the flavors and aromas of a feast. I worked as well. But I could arrange my schedule any way that I liked. While the restaurants in town put on a nice Thanksgiving dinner for expats, my crowd all worked for the Mexican government. Thanksgiving is not a holiday for them.

Oh the whining and the tantrums about no turkey dinner. But no one stepped up.

After that for a few years we would go out to dinner for Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving poolside in La Paz Baja California Sur
I hope evertone had enough to eat!

But the best part of turkey day is the leftovers. So I decided that I would order two complete entrees to go. And come Friday afternoon, we would have leftovers!

This is the second Thanksgiving that My Beloved will not be here to share Thanksgiving with me, and our friends. But he will still be a presence at our table. I am heading north to Dallas to be with my daughter and her family and friends. But we will toast his memory.

Thank you, My Love, for all  of the holidays we were able to share together.

Seasonal Con-Fusion. What Holiday is it?

Seasonal Con-Fusion

Halloween, Christmas and Dia de Los Muertos all together!

It’s that time of the year when leaves turn red and orange and candy corn appears, and sleigh bells ring and Santa is everywhere. Santa in October?

Well, here in La Paz, that is the way.  Actually the ToyLand tent opened in the Chedraui parking lot in August! The stores jam all the holidays and their special-themed goodies together and believe it or not sell them in a hurry.

This year Hotel Perla has a big sign on the side of their building that says

“Feliz Halloween!”

I am hardly a traditionalist. It would be safe to call me a maverick, a rebel. But I love the holidays. I love the last quarter of the year. And I like to savor each holiday as it comes and enjoy each in its own special way. We have a rule in our house that no Christmas decorations can appear before Thanksgiving.

Back in 2000, the first Halloween my beloved and I spent in La Paz was, well, not the same. Our household goods had not yet been shipped; there were no pumpkins in the stores—nothing about Halloween. And we did not know about the Day of the Dead celebration at Teatro de La Ciudad.

( watch for a Day of The Dead Post next week!)

I was regretting leaving behind my severed hands, and screaming witches I used to scare the kids in our neighborhood. I found two ugly citronella candles in glass holders. I printed two clip art skeletons for each holder, taped them on the outside and voila! Halloween décor. And you know what? People admired them! That was almost 20 years ago.

Early in my new life in La Paz, I looked high and low for anything for Day of the Dead. Once I found some tiny, almost melted sugar skulls at the old CCC on Colima. On a business trip to Mexico City, I visited Sanborn’s and was mesmerized by the vast displays of Day of the Dead items, especially the chocolate skulls of every size. This year as we did our Sunday shopping, I entered City Club and found this:

Incredible: White skulls, blue skulls, dark chocolate skulls, boxes of three small skulls. I sent the photos back to the old country on my iPhone and immediately heard back from my daughter to buy some, freeze them, and bring them at Christmas! But that’s not all: Check out these chocolate Jack-O-Lanterns and Halloween costumes.


Look at the fake tombstones as a backdrop to piles of pan de muerto (bread of the dead). I especially love the table skirt with Day of the Dead themes. This is truly the blending of two popular holidays. For awhile I was afraid Halloween I would eclipse Day of the Dead.

These were in the grocery store a few weeks ago. Don’t be alarmed by the price. The price in dollars is less than $1.00 US


Another year I bought a new 8’ artificial, pre-lit Christmas tree that was on display in August in City Club. Right there near the kayaks!


So what’s the point? Well, we know that in the frozen north across the border, Christmas hits the stores early as well, but not before Halloween. Nordstrom announced that they were not going to decorate their stores for Christmas until November 27th which is after Halloween. No one will notice on Black Friday, anyway.

So, back to La Paz.  I needed to replenish my cosmetic supplies, so off to Sears we went. Christmas is in full swing there, and their Christmas department is full of whimsical and elegant ornaments, something for every taste. Trees draped in only icy blue stars, snowflakes, and birds, trees covered in fuchsia butterflies, bows, and stars, trees draped with softie toys, and an entire table of Victorian and rustic Santas. Like Angels? Sears has them! But, you better get there quickly and buy what delights you now or they will all be gone. The first of the year-end bonuses are given to Mexican workers in November, and they shop early.

It happened to me last year. I was cutting through Sears on the way to the Cinepolis when I stopped for a few seconds to admire the magical display. I had my not-so-patient beloved along, and Bruce Willis and carmel popcorn was calling his name. A week later, I returned on my own to buy some of the magical ornaments. There were no trees! Not one ornament was in sight, not even a string of tinsel.

It was as if the Grinch had sucked everything Christmas off the shelves and out of the store!

taken last month in Chedraui.

So, be warned; if you need seasonal decorations, go now and don’t hesitate; they will be gone faster than 8 tiny reindeer can lift off.

September 27 2019 – For Ira

Ira Christmas 2017

Where once there were two chairs, now there is one. Whereone chair once two people still passionately in love after 36 years sat and chatted with their morning coffee, now there is one.

Today would have been your 84th birthday. And today marks 14 months to the day since your gentle soul left your damaged body.

I still reach for you at night.

I still save up thoughts to share with you.

I still call to you to come and see the moon sparkling on the bay.

On the anniversary of your death, some close friends gathered with me at the beach to scatter the last of your ashes. They shared loving and sweet stories about you.

Your friends love you still.

Your friends miss you.

Your friendGull Iras have cared for me these long  months.

While we sat under an umbrella and shared stories about you. A gull perched on a piling behind me. He only flew away when we started gathering our things to leave.

Was that you, my love? You always said that you would come back as a bird.

For weeks after you died, the dogs cried at the door waiting for you, missing you.

For weeks after you died the dogs would run to the car when I came home.

They looked at me wondering where their Daddy was.

Twice  in the last year, I scattered your ashes with our children.

Once we scattered your ashes under a grand tree at the Dallas Science Museum.

Once we scattered your ashes at a beach in Southern California, chosen for its rock infused cliff.

For weeks after you died, I could not breathe. Could not eat, could not think

I still reach for you at night.

I still save up thoughts to share with you.

I still call to you to come and see the moon sparkling on the bay.

And I always will.

Ira Christmas 2017

Success! First Attempt at Coloring Eggs With Silk.

I love Easter! The chocolate bunnies. Jellybeans. Black ones. Peeps! The rustle of the cellophane Easter grass. I love it all!

The religious aspect, church, Jesus rising from the dead. I could never get my head around it, even as a kid in Catholic school.

But the Easter Bunny leaving  a basket full of chocolate made in his own image? Bring it on! The Easter Bunny also hid the eggs my siblings and I so carefully colored on the Saturday before Easter. It all made sense to me the same as the Tooth Fairy and Santa. A myth we  pretended to believe in -for our parents sake- long after we knew these  amazing creatures were imaginary.

Well here in La Paz and all over Mexico, Easter is a big deal in a different way. The entire population is on the move. Large extended  families camp out on the beaches and some bring stoves, generators and TVs. Folks from the mainland come to the beaches to enjoy their one-to-two week holiday.

The Easter Bunny is not the star of the show here. But chocolate of a dubious quality does show up in the stores.

Since I have completed a 10-day detox diet and have remained gluten, sugar, dairy and alcohol free since then, chocolate is not entering  the house.

But I like to mark the holiday. and we are having 10 other folks over for hotdogs tomorrow. Six of those others are kids between the ages of 4-14.

I decided to color eggs. But not with food coloring and vinegar. Oh the colors are lovely, but the mess is  not worth it.

MissMeliss mentioned a YouTube video by  my protege, Martha Stewart demonstrating how to color eggs using silk ties. That sounded like fun. I watched the video, which is below. And then I asked My Beloved if I could have one or all of his ties to cut up to color eggs. He gave me ONE.

I also found two pieces of silk prints that I thought I would try.

Here are the fabrics. Note the tie and it’s dark color and animal heads.

I tried to center one tiger and one zebra on two different eggs. The Zebra seemed to work:

Here are all of the eggs from the tie. It is interesting the way the colors turned out.

The vibrant rust and cobalt blue Thai silk  was a real surprise. The rust did not come through at all. In fact in the picture  after the blue eggs you can see that it ran and turned the water pinkish. It is fascinating what colors came through. And how they changed.

And here they are boiling away

These last three eggs  came from the beige floral silk. I was a little disappointed in them, but then I added some oil, and now they have a pearly glow.

They are lovely, yes?

I have asked friends to shop in their husband’s closets for ties. And to visit Goodwill. I  have two friends that want to do this next year. We need silk ties sent to us so we can be prepared! The ties work best because their colors are intense and their prints are small. With some careful placement and a bit of luck, I think that I can transfer specific motifs to my next batch of eggs.

so tomorrow we will roast hotdogs poolside and  eat these eggs!

Here is Martha’s video.

click here to watch Martha


Mexico, I love the Sun, Sea, People, Food, BUT…


The vanity in my outdoor snail bathroom.

Life in Mexico is sweet, slow, and warm. When I say warm, I refer not only to the sunny climate, but to the people. Mexicans are among the happiest people in the world. They are gracious, and welcoming. A goodly portion of the expats here have developed a laid-back and open attitude as well. And the food! Oh what a luscious delight is a taco or tostada eaten at a roadside stand. The ingredients are made fresh that day. And each stand has a different taste, depending on the family recipe. Oh yum!

Then there is the other thing… or things. Things that you cannot find.

When one wants to make a new recipe. Try a new sewing technique. Or do a little DIY. Frustration sets in. There are things that you just cannot find. Or have to go on the hung asking others if they have seen such. Or if they know the Spanish word for this.

I have a lovely, snail shaped outdoor bathroom. I hardly used my longed- for snail bathroom last summer and I have no excuse. This year I have decided to use it regularly, and to ask my pool guests to use it rather than track water through the house. I have been swimming in the early morning and then showering out there. The early morning  sun is intense,  the early Spring air is crisp,The sky is BLUE. It is lovely. Doing this is what I dreamed my Mexican life would be like when we finally retired. We have been here 17 years. I had a makeshift outdoor bath in my first house, a full enclosed very nice pool bath at my beach house. But now I have the dreamed-of outdoor snail bath. I never really decorated it, and made it mine. Who knows why.

The snail bath freshly painted and not quite ready for use.

I spent Saturday and Sunday cleaning it up, adding sweet yellow pots of jade plants, re-hanging the shell mirror, replacing the inefficient rain shower head with a hand held shower, and then adding Talavera soap and lotion containers. Pouring liquid soap into one was easy-peasy. Done in a flash and not a drop spilled.

Getting the hand lotion into the other dispenser

evening shot of the snail with a beeaded curtain for romance and a sombra cloth curtain for privacy.

was a task that drove me crazy and was shelved ( well actually stuck in a corner of my indoor bathroom cupboard funnel and all for over a year).


I like pretty things. I like my guests to have pretty things at the ready when they need them. Like hand lotion in a lovely dispenser.



Last year I tried pumping from a bottle of lotion into the new dispenser. What a mess!

The lotion clogged up, mounded up, and rolled down the sides.

I tried a funnel. That just got more lotion piled up in the funnel and going nowhere. I mean molasses goes faster uphill in January.

I was thinking of nuking the hand lotion bottle, but since my last microwave experiment, My Beloved comes running when he hears the buttons chiming.

So I visited Google. There was a 10 -minute video on filling a lotion dispenser. Skipped that one. Then there was a video showing a cello cone that is like a disposable pastry bag. None on hand in my house, and I am positive there are none available in La Paz.

Next tutorial shows a special icing baster. Hmm, Solution Cake the cake decorating shop might have one if I would like to drive 30 minutes to town and spend another ten parking. Well actuall until after my eye surgery, if MY Beloved wants to drive 30 minutes to town and spend 10 minutes lookingfor parking. Not happening.

Who said “The third one is the charm?” They are right.

The third video said just glop some lotion base in a jar and nuke it. But don’t let it get over 120 F.

Okay, I now had a plan.

  1. Find cooking thermometer in the gadget drawer
  2. Fill larger Pyrex measuring cup with water
  3. Nuke the water for two minutes. Also yell “ It’s OK honey, I am only heating water!”
  4. Check temperature. Note: do not test the water with your finger, that’s what the thermometer is for.
  5. Stand the lotion containers in the hot water. For a little while.
  6. Pump the now-liquid lotion into the funnel (less mess) Voila! The dispensers are filled.

I used two almost empty lotion bottles and part of a new one.

Have a lot of old napkins or paper towels on hand, this gets messy.

Now, how to label the dispensers? I looked through my collection for two small shells, none did the trick. So, I rummage in my button box and found two nice buttons and some silver cord. I tied the cord around the necks of the dispensers, thread the silver through the buttons, and knotted it, and added some small labels with the words soap and lotion in Spanish and English.

Oh how pretty they look. Dontcha think?



Coffee! Coffee! Coffee!

Coffee. Just hearing the word brings the aroma, the taste, the sensual pleasure of drinking it right smack up to front of my mind.

Coffee cup border print
Out of print Coffee fabric “Spill the Beans” by Barbara Tortillote for Clothworks I cherish this fabric.

Seeing the written word, doesn’t seem to have any effect on me.

But let me get a whiff of brewing coffee, or freshly ground coffee, and I am craving a hit of that dark, rich heaven in a cup.


The elixir of life.


Is convivial.


Is perfect for solitary time


We have often joked that the Klindienst coat of arms should be a hand passing a coffee cup. A golden cup brimming with dark rich coffee curls of “flavor fingers”  reaching ever upward.

Some of us are insufferable coffee snobs (me) and have been known to walk out of restaurants that cannot serve a proper cup of coffee. That is a lot of restaurants, the world over.

My solution here in the City of Peace on the Bay, I am well known, and surprisingly well-liked enough to be allowed to bring my own coffee carafe into breakfast restaurants. They even supply a cup! I won’t do this at fine dining restaurants, but I have threatened to.

Some of us enjoy a good cup of coffee, know a great cup of coffee, but will be satisfied with a good cup of coffee.

And others, the slightly less discerning will drink any swill that is dark brown and hot. I think that they were dropped at birth or married in.

And so this little rant of mine started at 5:26 a.m. when stumbling in the dark so as not to awaken my Beloved, I stubbed my toe on the bed frame, stepped on the dog who yelped and ran away not at all hurt, and then used my favorite expletive, it starts with an F. He did wake and ask the time.  Time…well that is for another time! This is about coffee.

I was charging up my Dulce Gusto one cup wonder, and still reeling from the life enhancing, mind bending smell of my coffee cupboard. Can you smell it? Take a deep breath. Oh heavenly mother and all the saints, this is, this is, this is coffee! I swoon.

Coffee gargae composite
My coffee garage. I lean in, and breathe deeply, and say “I could live in here!”

Then like a thunderbolt, or the stern admonishing that Miss Meliss gave me over Christmas, I stop, cock my head and hear the words. “Write about this. Do it now!”

I grabbed my phone ( wouldn’t my dear  parents looking down from heaven since the 90s  be thinking I was going senile, grabbing my phone to take a photo?) and snapped the photos you see here.Because a blog post needs photos.

In the last 16 years of our exile here in Baja California Sur. Since November 8th, we call ourselves exiles, not expats, I have seen the demise of at least two Krups and one Braun coffeemakers. It is our hard water. No amount of vinegar or specialized cleaner or even a shaman’s spells could save them. On the advice of coffee drinking friends, I bought a local brand coffee maker. I am on my second one. The first one just stopped. Just stopped making coffee. This one is dying a slow death.

coffee drawers composite
Two of the THREE drawers devoted to coffee paraphernalia!

This cute Dulce Gusto pod coffee maker came home with us after Hurricane Odile. We were on  day 8 of 13 days without electricity. We went to town every day to have a good meal, charge up our devices and enjoy air conditioning. We were in a department store slowly pretending we were shopping like the rest of the population from our side of the bay.

He saw it first, my ever so Beloved. There she was sparkling, a lovely blue with Frida’s face and torso on the front.

“This is cute” he said.

“I love it” said I.

So we bought the pot and some pods. Then we went home and looked at her for 6 more days until the power was restored. Frida poured out cup after cup for two years, but just before Christmas refused to do anything but sit there. I tried to make it work between us. But she refused.

Too cute to throw away, Frida resides in the coffee garage.

And now I have Chrome Boy.

Coffee Frida and Chrome Boy
Chrome Boy and Frida. Notice the cafe scene on the wall. Coffee is important in this house!

Admittedly, this is not the best coffee, but I have figured out when to stop the water flow and can get a pretty decent cup. Especially at 5:26 in the morning.


And thank you Venus, Mars and the former planet Pluto for Jaime and his gifted roasting. And to the guy in the village, Coffee Eberhart that will take my coffee orders and then deliver kilos of coffee to my house.

Miss Meliss has been preaching about her latest coffeemaker, the Coffee Ninja (that is its real name) and how she wants me to have one. She wants to send one to me for my birthday. I demurred.

“No, Darling, a gift certificate at Gorgeous Fabrics will be fine.” I mean one does not want to appear grasping and greedy.

But I am waiting for the Amazon shipping notice.




Christmas When I Was Nine and Even Older

Christmas When I Was Nine and Even Older



I am not religious. Never have been. Despite my Italian-Catholic upbringing, Jesus and all the saints in heaven never took.

But what did stick was Christmas as a time of giving and forgiving. A time of making room for one more place at the table because someone we knew found themselves alone on Christmas.

There were always extra gifts wrapped and ready to give “just in case”.

Singing songs like Silent Night and Joy to the World were no different to me than singing along with Mr. Beau Jangles, Me and Bobby McGee or any Beach Boys or Beatles songs. Just songs that I loved to hear and sing, in my terribly, flat, toneless but enthusiastic voice.

Christmas at our house was noisy. There were four of us. Four kids with arguments. With friends. Four kids trying to wrap presents for each other in secret, but making heavy hints about what might be in the boxes.

My mother was baking, baking, baking. She was making gingerbread and her famous date nut loaves. She would often be swatting my farther with the towel torn from her waist. NOW I know why she was swatting him. Back then I had no clue. I was nine.

My father would bring in the tree from the garage. I was asthmatic and no number of specially treated trees kept me from wheezing. Family photos of us on Christmas always showed me in a blanket looking like I was taking my last breath.

So my father de-boxed the artificial tree one in a line of many that got better as artificial tree technology improved. And told us it had to “warm up” so that the cold, brittle, metal branches did not break when we unfolded them. He taught us how to string lights, and was very particular about spreading the colors around.

What is Christmas without trains? We had them, beautiful Marklin trains that Dad brought back from Germany after the war.  We spent days sanding the tracks that corroded over the humid New Jersey summer. We fixed wheels, and shined up the  other props. We loved it and we did not fight or argue during the train setup. Years later after his funeral, the three siblings that were left, chose our favorite trains and took them home to be part of our separate Christmas celebrations.

In the 80s, my daughter and I left an abusive situation and found ourselves alone at Christmas in Modesto, California.  On Christmas morning, my sweet daughter presented me with a box covered in glitter. Inside were tapes she had made from albums she had borrowed from the library and recorded for me.

She had taken to heart her grandmother’s adage: “A gift of the hand is a gift of the heart.”

There are so many cherished moments from Christmas past, but that one I cherish the most.





La Paz Saturday Farmer’s Market, Meet Friends, Buy Goodies, Drink Coffee

The La Paz Farmer’s Market; Open All Year,  Come Taste, Talk and Buy.


farmers composite big

Come Saturday morning, after our years-old tradition of breakfast with friends, my Beloved and I head over to the La Paz Farmer’s Market. It is part of our Saturday thing. Not only are we loading up on wonderful fruits and vegetables, salsa, pesto, artisan Tequila, homemade breads, we buy plants, organic pest killers and fertilizer, jewelry, greeting cards, and healthy Chinese treats.

The Saturday Farmer’s Market is a social occasion and we spend time chatting with the vendors and the other buyers, meeting new people, and just being out and convivial. But the market is also open for your convenience on Tuesdays.

Farmers market 1

Have you tried any of Linda Shawyer’s Greek yogurt made from the milk of local, grass-fed cows, zesty Italian sausage, or any of her magnificent quiche? Linda always has a smile and kind word and scrumptious goodies. Her cinnamon rolls are dangerously addictive. Linda says that, “…I like to make food that makes people happy…”

Martin Loubet always has a long line at his produce table. My Beloved is dispatched to stand in for me and choose the goodies. Martin has land and a farm in Pescadero. After Odile, he showed up with what few things did not get blown away. And we bought what little fare he had, in praise of his efforts to pick up and keep going. Always smiling, and helpful, Martin and his wife and daughter walk the line at their table and ensure that everyone is served. You never know when different fruit or veggies that you have never seen before will pop up on Martin’s table.

When we first moved to La Paz, I whined a lot about not having a farmer’s market. Our not-so-little market has grown to encompass many different items, home grown and homemade. And on any given visit, there will be the mainstays of the market and newcomers. The presentation of goods is a rich, colorful motif in creativity and the bounty of Mother Nature.

Farmers market 2
My market haul


And then there is Kayle, a laid-back guy from Pescadero that also has a groaning board of interesting and hard to find items, like luscious blueberries, dates, organic popcorn, shelled, fat, sweet green peas and the most wonderful selection of greens for salads and juicing. Kayle treks up to La Paz on both days of our market.

Cathy Smith, the Gardening Guru, also hails from Pescadero. Cathy’s products are certified by the Baja California Sur state government as 100% ORGANIC. This is not an easy designation to come by. If one could bank Cathy’s enthusiasm and know-how, they would be rich as Midus. Cathy has an array of organic pest killers, mosquito repellants, fertilizers, and is happy to advise and consult.

Not all the vendors mentioned here are out on the street. There are one or two shop owners that are important threads of this wonderful tapestry of food, plants, and crafts. The market has provided the traffic and interest in things other than the commercial and homogeneous. These shops are a wonderful addition to your Farmer’s Market visit and to the town on any day.

Doce Cuarenta Susan
Author enjoying a Cortado and granola at 12.40

Got Baja? Enrique Sanchez #2 and his wife, Cecelia, certainly do. They are the owners, and creators of the gift shop, “Got Baja” and the espresso café, “Doce Cuarenta” (1240 Madero), named for their street address. This wonderful little shop, café, and garden is the center of the Farmer’s Market. My Beloved is hooked on their Ruben sandwich and I will never get tired of their signature salad, Doce Cuarenta. All things La Paz and Baja, from stunning mounted large photographs of Baja scenes, feed sack throw pillows that say “Cuddle with this pillow if you miss La Paz too much”, to t-shirts and mugs. Whether you want a rich pastry, a light lunch, hot or cold-brewed espresso, this is an important part of your Farmer’s Market experience.

Lolita Pie Boutique on March 14th, my number one daughter sent me an email saying it was Pie Day and had dispatched her Beloved to find a luscious pie.  March 14 is 3.14…get it? Well, you do not need to wait for next March to experience decadent, delicious, warm-from-the-oven pies. Just step around the corner onto Constitucion near the Aramburo parking lot and visit Lolita’s Pie Boutique.

Karuna Tea House is also just around the corner on Constitucion, a charming and welcoming place to rest and enjoy. Husband and wife team Ines Garcia and Hector Jaime Felix offer private tea tastings and a few tables for you to enjoy a cup of one of their specialty teas. Ines also has a table at the market and offers refreshing iced tea and some cakes. Stop in and sip a cuppa and meet these lovely young people.

Talking on the phone to precious daughter, the other day she said she was running low on her Baja salt collection and hoped there was still someone selling flavored salts at the market. I told her not to worry.

La Parcela Productos Gourmet. Visit their booth or their shop. It is a treat for the senses. Shop owner Christian, displays his aderezos and especias (herbs and spices) beautifully and is knowledgeable about his products. He carries everything from cacao, vanilla, various salts, and Himalayan salt tabs. Visit him at the market or at his store on Allende between Revolucion and Serdan.

El Jardincito. Owned by Enrique Sanchez #1 (the other guy’s father) is the place to buy healthy, organically grown plants, herbs, and a few gifts like blown glass hummingbird feeders and some handmade fiber pots. Want a ready-made herb garden? Enrique has them. Looking for a particular plant? Enrique will try to find it for you. This spring, he had the most gorgeous, vibrant, and long-lived tulips. Enrique has two passions in life: running and raising organic plants. In fact, he came in first in his age group in the half marathon and first again in the triathalon in Cabo San Lucas.

Queen Bees owner Juana Agudo sells honey, honey drops, and lollipops (better than a cough drop). Always ready with a smile, Juana is happy to offer a sample. Her products are diverse and well-priced. Not just a pretty face, Juana is a bee expert. She came to my house, suited up in a beekeeper’s rig (scared my chihuahua) and very calmly and professionally removed a hive of wild bees.

Dora Burgoin of Organicos Cabo Natura comes from Cabo San Lucas twice a week with her wonderful, colorful, purple and yellow cauliflower, flor de calabasa (squash flowers), heirloom tomatoes, and greens. You cannot miss her in her Mexican gauze dresses, colorful scarves, and straw hat. Her produce is beautiful and tasty.

Bella. When I was a kid, my Italian mother always called me Bella. Beautiful. Well, French food at the level that Bella makes it, lives up to her name! I have heard that her gluten-free Tarte Provencal requires that you sign a release form in case you become addicted. Oh, and her lemon squares have an equal reputation. Provecho!

It is a good thing there is not the most convenient parking at the market. Hoofing it a little bit will help to burn off the calories from all of the food you have tasted. I mean, I do not want to be rude, if someone offers, I taste!


La Lei. Lei Tam, chef and Asian food genius, has caught me hook, line, and Pad Thai! I have tried most of her offerings. Her Chow Mein made with wide brown noodles and an array of vegetables is as pleasing to the eye as it is to the palate. Oh! And those Vietnamese Summer Rolls… Well, they are a mainstay at our house. Lei makes all of her own noodles and sauces. She can even make the Chow Mein and Pad Thai vegetarian and gluten free. Lei, with advance notice, will make dishes for you to pick up at the market. Or she will be the private chef at your next party. But, please invite the Press!

Dear readers: Many of you may remember the trendy Café Milano on Izquierda Street. Lei was the chef. Her husband Michel, the bread maker, helped her. We watched their beautiful daughter Asia (“Ahs si ya”) grow up. Lei says “Italian design, Chinese built!”

Grateful Bread, Michel Milano, artesanal bread maker, arrives on a Vespa. Sets up his breads, round and long loaves. Crusty on the outside, white and delicious on the inside. He tempts me every week. I have to resist, once on the lips, and boom it’s on the hips! But others give in and I see his wares flying off the table.

They started calling it “Eat Street” because so many restaurants have made their homes on Madero Street. But on Tuesdays and Saturdays, it is Meet, Greet, and Eat Street. La Paz, this Farmer’s Market is yours. These are your friends and neighbors. They are cooking, baking, stirring, and harvesting to bring wonderful foods to you. Please continue to support them. The market is open all year.

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The Secret Life of Bees and How They Have taken Over My Spa

The Secret Life of Bees


Are bees swarming your infinity edge pool? Are they making your spa their day spa?

Queen Latifah may have been able to handle bees without getting stung when she starred in the movie based on the book with the same name as this article.

But when one is lolling about sin la ropa (naked) in the pool or spa having swarms of wild bees as uninvited guests, well  it makes for a less-than-relaxing moment. One of the pleasures of living here is having a pool or spa that can be enjoyed most of the year.

When we lived two blocks from the beach, we had a few bees, but a lot of wasps. Wasps are easy, just splash around and they go away. When we moved to the beach, several years in a row there were wild bees forming hives on our property. They were not much of a bother at the pool. But! wild bees have no fear of humans, and they will let you know when they are annoyed at you using the pool during their peak visiting times.

In our new house on the hill with a lot of desert vegetation and a wooded arroyo, bees are our grumpy neighbors. Last summer, our first in this house, our spa had a cascade feature, where water gently glided over the divider between pool and spa. The water glistened in the sun and was lovely to see. A few bees visited us and kept to themselves on the cascade, but they left us alone, and we didn’t bother them.

We changed the pool/spa configuration. We raised the divider between the two pools and stopped the cascade. And we added one of those blue “bubble wrap” covers on the spa. And that is how the trouble that spawned this tale began!

Bees came in numbers upwards of 30. (UPDATE: It is now closer to 100 bees on both sides of the former cascade) One early evening My Beloved and I wanted to use the spa. The bees were lined up on the edge of the cover where a little water was exposed. Some flew off and more came in their place. And they were there from dawn to dusk. We pulled off the cover. The bees were annoyed, and let us know about it. They swarmed us and buzzed around our heads and otherwise made the luxury of a hot dip a hot mess. “Just ignore them,” said My Beloved. Such good advice. How do you ignore 20 buzzing angry flying insects that will sting you? I jumped out of the spa, stomped away, and went inside to sulk, leaving My Beloved to cover the spa.

Not willing to give up my sybaritic pleasures, I researched bees and spas and pools. There are blogs by beekeepers, other spa owners, and pool companies. I tried to be scientific about the process. And I was not going to do anything to harm our precious pollinator; bees. I started with the easy stuff first:

  1. Soapy Water: Spray the bees with soapy water. It will kill them when they return to the hive and other bees will get the message and not return. I did not try this. I will not kill bees. And even if this worked, other bees will come. I know they will. The draw of water is too strong.


  1. Vinegar: Add vinegar to your spa water. I love the smell of vinegar and hot water because vinegar reminds me of coloring Easter eggs. But on my skin? Not so much. So I tried this. I sprayed the entire cover of the pool with vinegar. A whole bunch of spray blew in my face. This smells bad, and had no effect on the bees.


  1. Brown Paper Bag: This is a silly idea, but in the interests of research, I tried it. The theory is that a brown paper bag that has been blown up will look like a hive, and the bees that are supposedly territorial will respect their neighbor and find another watering hole. I taped a bag under the lip of my fire pit right near the spa. I did this before the sun was up, so the crafty bees would not see me doing it. A little while later, I checked my experiment, only to find 50 bees and that the bag had blown away and the duct tape was flapping in the breeze. Two neighbors weighed in on this one. One neighbor had luck using the bag to ward off wasps. Another bought a commercial version of the brown paper bag. She said the bag remains in a tree and the bees were never deterred.


  1. Become a Bee Keeper: One blog suggested starting a honeybee hive of your own in a far corner of your yard. This will keep other bees from coming. This is the same idea as the brown bag. Yeah, I am going to do that any time now.


  1. Make a Separate Bee Spa: There are several versions of this from putting a grate on a shallow bowl of water to elaborate pools with flowers and rocks for the bees to light on. Another neighbor tried this with a kiddie pool, flowers, and rocks. The bees still preferred her waterfall.


  1. Cloves: Surprisingly, this works, within limits, and smells like Thanksgiving! I started small. I set out two small bowls half filled with ground cloves. The bees were already enjoying their daily dips. The smell disturbed them, and they flew up and around the spa. They tried to land on the bowls but flew off immediately. Using a thick solution of water, ground cloves and lime juice, I sprayed the cover and the bees. Whoa! They did NOT like that at all. They swarmed up and buzzed loudly, hanging a few feet away from the spa. It was as if they were having an argument. But they peeled off and didn’t come back for hours. I was sitting nearby to observe. One bee buzzed my ear, and more than one buzzed the top of my head. Not one stung me. Eventually the bees came back, but never in the larger numbers, like before

One morning before the sun rose, I refilled my clove dishes. I sprayed the entire perimeter of the pool cover and literally turned my cover brown with clove spray. There were no bees enjoying the pleasures of my spa for hours. Only a few adventurers returned. And the number of bees at my spa has dwindled.

My final assessment: To rid my spa completely of malingering bees, I should remove the cover. There are no bees at the pool because there is no place to land. Since I do not want to waste hot water, my other conclusion is that a new cover that rises up the edge of the spa a few inches above the water line means no water is exposed and there is no place for the bees to light. We just did this today, and the bees again were angry, but they left. As of this writing there have been only 3 bees at my spa.

If you have a pool with an infinity or waterfall edge and are plagued by bees, I suggest a clove atomizer that releases the spray every few hours (like the Fifth Avenue department stores), or a tray of limes dredged in cloves. I went to Chedraui on the weekend to buy more ground cloves. They had none. Could it  be that my neighbors bought the store’s supply.

Oh, and one helpful neighbor said that loud rock music deters rattlesnakes, and also offered a mouse deterrent!

In true Mythbusters tradition, I declare the clove cure plausible.

April 26: the bees are back and there are now 100s of them.

I asked the wonderful Bee Lady at the Farmer’s Market wht solution she could reccommend.

She thought a moment, then smiled and said:

” The solution is that the bees use the pool and spa while the sun shines and you use it at night.”
Thank you very much!