Thanksgiving #3 in Mexico

My first year in Mexico I flew home for Thanksgiving.  Since Ale was born, I’ve stayed in town and prepared a Thanksgiving meal for my family and the other extranjeros, or foreigners.  This year, my party grew, and so did our turkey!

I’ve become less intimidated about cooking turkey.  I think it is over emphasized, and this year I appreciated an article that helped me to feel better about my bird: 17 Thanksgiving Turkey Mistakes Everyone Makes  I bought my bird too late.  I thawed him outside of the fridge overnight.  He weighed 11.75 kilos (about 25 pounds).  I just slapped some butter on his breast, used salt and pepper to season him, and cooked him upside down for 4 and 1/2 hours before flipping him over for the last 30 minutes.

He was perfect.

Better yet, he continues to be perfect.  Victor’s been snacking on turkey for two days, today we had turkey sandwiches for lunch, and I’ve made SO much broth from the bones and little bits of meat!  Next up is a turkey pot pie with some leftover pie dough.  Yummo!  This turkey will feed us for weeks!!!

I also managed to make a most delicious dressing that tastes pretty much like my Mamaw’s.  This is how I accomplished that:

Mamaw’s Cornbread Dressing

1 skillet of cornbread crumbled
10-12 biscuits crumbled
1/4 cup of fresh sage, minced (About 15-20 leaves)
6-8 stalks of celery, minced
1 whole white onion, minced
1 green bell pepper, minced
left over chicken and chicken parts, minced (optional)
Broth from chicken or turkey
Salt/Pepper to taste

In a pot, boil all those goodies you take out of your turkey (neck, lungs, etc.) Save this broth for your dressing. Crumble and chop all ingredients listed above into a large bowl. Add broth until everything is moistened. Add salt and pepper to flavor the dressing. (You can taste it here–all the ingredients are cooked, so no worries of getting sick!) Throw this into a casserole dish, and pop in the oven and bake until the top is crispy. Enjoy!

The best part of this Thanksgiving was the preparation: two of Ale’s aunties came over to help us get ready and prep the food/ house for company.  Having them here as I busied about the kitchen was really special.  It made my family holiday seem more like a family holiday!

What I didn’t count on was the major exhaustion from being on my feet for 14 hours cooking and entertaining!  I didn’t count on being eight months pregnant while preparing turkey, dressing, and homemade rolls for 20 people wearing me out–but it sure did!  That night I went to bed with an achy body, contractions and cramping, and fell asleep singing to Ale.  Victor said I kept trying to sing to her after I was asleep.

Whew!  Who knew that hosting Thanksgiving took so much work!  Wow!

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A Hula Party

We have a sweet friend from Mexico City who remembers everyone’s birthday.  She will call, a country away, to wish you happy birthday.  This year she called me about a week after apologizing for having missed my actual birthday.  She didn’t forget it–she just was super busy that day.

I thought that she was something special rare (she is really special), until I moved to Mexico.

No one does a birthday quite like a Mexican.  And it doesn’t matter if you are rich or on limited income, birthdays are really special days.  That’s why I never miss an opportunity to attend a party.  It’s a lot of fun!  These are the essentials of a Mexican birthday party:

  1. Decorations-  I’ve been to birthday parties here where everything is homemade.  The decorations are made from tissue paper folded and cut to create beautiful flowers and poms.  And then there are parties like the hula party–where the parents MUST have shopped in the States.  There were blow up decorations, garland, table center pieces, etc.
  2. Snacks–  On the table tops, botanas are a must.  This at cheaper parties might be delicious and inexpensive chicharron with Valentina sauce.  Swag parties have crackers and cheese, or a popular strawberry and chipotle sauce spread over cream cheese as a dip for crackers.
  3. Drink– Each table often has a 2-liter of soda sitting in the middle with the snacks.  Sometimes, ice is even included… 
  4. Food– MUCH later, food is served.  I’ve been to parties with tamales and gorditas.  Both of these are stuffed bread.  A gordita is like a thick tortilla that has been cut to make a pocket (similar to a pita bread pocket).  This is filled with mixed meats or maybe peppers and cream sauce.  One party I was at served a sandwich with a cold macaroni salad.  On Friday, they went all out with individual pies stuffed with rajas (peppers and cream sauce) and a salad with chopped mango, sunflower seeds, and dried cranberries and blueberries.  Yummo!
  5. A cake– Cakes in Mexico are amazing.  Or at least in Chiapas they are.  I always had delicious, rich, creamy, moist cakes in Chiapas!  Here in the north, they tend to be a little dry.  Cakes also often have a whipped frosting and fruit on top.  Cupcakes are gaining in popularity, so sometimes you can find cupcakes.  Most times layered cakes have jelly in between the layers.  Sometimes they have caramel sauce.  Singing the birthday song is special.  The birthday child stands behind the table as the candles (or sparklers) are lit.  Their family joins them behind the table.  And the group sings “Las Mañanitas” to them.  This is my favorite time…
  6. A piñata–  But the piñata also gets a lot of my attention.  I have NEVER been to a party where the person pulling the rope doesn’t almost get whacked.  They start with the youngest, and work their way up.  You always get a rough little kid with built up aggression that makes the crowd take a step back.  The crowd is bigger when the candy really IS inside the piñata.  At the party on Friday, I saw a mean little boy pick up the leg from the piñata and start hitting his nanny with it.  He literally chased her around the party while she said, “No! David, I am NOT a piñata!”  Piñatas are seemingly harmless when they’re cartoon characters or giant hearts.  But have you ever seem people take turns beating a giant replica of your student?  That is a little strange…

I am looking pretty forward to having some cute birthday parties for my little girl.  The thing that I love the best about them is that usually the emphasis is placed on spending time together.  Neighbors will join parties in small communities.  Fancy parties that are supposed to end at 7 are extended way past the time.  And I have never seen a child open her gifts.  The gifts aren’t obligatory, and they are placed on a side table as you enter.  That’s where they stay until the child goes home.  I love that!

Is it too early to start planning for March of 2014?  Let’s see…

 

 

 

Christmas Posada

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Friday night was our Christmas Posada for school.  Basically, that means party…  Apparently a traditional posada is a lot of fun: piñatas, candy, gifts, etc.  This was fun too–it was just more of a dress-up, dance, and have-a-good-time party.

So, in typical Jania-style, we went shopping Thursday night for Victor’s suit.  In our defense, we were super busy all week with birthing classes and meeting…  The mall was gorgeous–all decked out for the holidays.  We celebrated with a Chinese buffet.  Yum!  Americans would have been outraged by this place.  The Chinese restaurants are NOT the place to go in the evening.  They are always running out of food.  On the other hand, if you get there first thing when they open–it’s fresh and yummy!  They just don’t want to throw away food at night–so we literally scraped the bottoms of the containers.
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We saw a performance of a school group too.  This is very different from our performances at home.  Remember choir concerts at our mall?  Pretty simple, eh?  Go. Sing. Get off the risers.  Not Mexicans.  All the performances I have seen here include the students moving as one up onto the risers.  Standing up.  Sitting down.  It’s all in the mass movement.

I’ve been hearing about how fun the posadas are here since August.  So, you might say I had pretty high expectations.  Everyone found seats (we had some saved for us right beside the dance floor), and the best part was that the WHOLE staff was there.  Not just the teachers. I really enjoyed seeing the custodial staff dressed up with their spouses.  Honestly, sometimes, I really enjoy them more.  They are so genuine.  I enjoy my second lunch I take with one lady.   (It’s when I eat my snack.)  She and I talk about my husband, baby, and life in general.

The real fun begins when they start the music though.  Let me just tell you: I really feel sorry for my husband.  He is an AMAZING dancer, and his wife has two left feet and seemingly no rhythm.  I am going to get him to dance with me every night until I become better.  The best part is: it doesn’t really matter what you dance like in Mexico.  Everyone is just there to have a good time.  I’ve never felt like I was really being judged by anyone else on the dance floor.

One of my friends was bummed because they didn’t play modern music, but honestly, Mexican music is SO much better!  It’s easier to move to!

It hit me while I watched all the people moving and shaking on the dance floor: I can’t believe I live here!  I can’t believe that this is just part of my life now–so normal!  When I first came to Mexico it was all so foreign to me–and now I look forward to making my husband dance with me!  I listen to people speak without that lurch in my throat of panic.  I belong here.  At least for now…

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Something Good’s a Cookin’!

I have a friend from Knoxville. It’s interesting to tell people about him, because they always think that I met him before I came to Mexico. He’s a total sweetheart–and I also like to say that he is a male version of me. I really think it is because we are southern to the core.

We decided a couple of weeks ago that we should have a southern supper. Mainly because who doesn’t like some delicious home cooking when they are thousands of miles from home? Unfortunately, it didn’t work out due to my silly schedule/sickness. Finally, last night was the night.

I was surprised. I am so used to people not coming to gatherings, that I really forget who I have invited. We had a house full last night!! In addition to Robert and I, there were nine other people who came. My table seats six. We were squeezed together, sharing seats, swapping seats, and piling on nearby living room furniture.

I decided what better southern food then fried chicken, mashed potatoes, and sweet dinner rolls. yum! Now, here is the catch: Yes, I am from the south. Yes, I love to cook. Including last night, that was the second time I have ever made fried chicken. And I am twenty-eight years old! How does that happen?!?! I actually had to call Mama last week (the first time I made fried chicken) to see what I should do. It was really easier than I thought it would be.

Now, mashed potatoes I have down to a fine art–but the rolls were really a sensation. I also was able to tell people my baking/quarter-life crisis story. I don’t do it justice anymore. It’s one of the benefits of forgetting bad things: I can hardly remember why life was so tough. I mean, if I think about it, it all comes back, but why do that? I do know this: the best thing (or one of the best things) to come from freaking out and learning to live is when I decided to make bread. I am no longer scared of making bread, and more often than not–it really turns out amazing!

The highlight part of the night is when I tasted the tea. “Robert, I don’t know–it might need more sugar.” Grabbing the same ladle I used to take a sip, Robert says, “Yeah, it needs more sugar. I like my tea like Cracker Barrel syrup!” Gotta love a southerner…and his sweet tea.

My First Party

I love having people over.

When I was in Washington D.C., I had these parties with weird groups of people. See, I have figured out one of my problems perks. I like lots of people. Or maybe I should say lots of different kinds of people. This was a problem at my old school, because I heard everyones’s complaints.

My favorite thing to do is put groups of people together that don’t usually belong. For example, in Alexandria when I would invite my teacher friends to hang out with my non-teacher friends. Or my older friends to hang out with my young friends. Or my church friends to hang out with my party friends.

Here, I decided to shake things up by inviting my Mexican friends to hang out with my non-Mexican friends. It went better than I expected. Although to be quite honest, the white people left before long, and the fun Mexicans stayed. I kept telling them that I was Mexicana. That is why I can keep going. That is why I am not tired. That is why I like your music. That is why my beans taste delicious, and you can’t stop eating them (or maybe it is because beans are a staple in my diet at home too).

In any case, it went well! I spent too much money preparing for the party. I have bags upon bags of tortilla chips left over. And I am writing a blog at two in the morning… Ah, well. It is Mexico.

Oh! The other thing is I am thinking of adopting a dog. I am getting ready to move to my own place, and a dog sounds wonderful. It just so happens that my co-worker’s boyfriend is a veterinarian, and has a couple dogs that he needs a good home for. One is a Cocker Spaniel and is young, the other is a French Bulldog and is seven. Sigh. Monday I am hoping to see them both. Oh, what a sucker I am for things that will love me…

Parque de Marimba

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Hooray! I am officially a Chiapanecan! I believe so at least, because I finally went to Marimba Park!

Marimba Park is where all the old people go on the weekend to dance. Video. The band plays in a gazebo of sorts, and all around it people dance! My favorite is the guy in the red hat…

We ate that yummy corn, and when we left we saw these guys! Video Pretty amazing, right?

I wish you could see all the old people. For someone who loves old men, it was like a dream come true! When we first arrived, I even saw the same old man walking around saying hello to all the pretty ladies. He looked too white to be from Chiapas–so I’ve already invented his story in my head: When his wife died, he surprised his children and grandchildren by selling all the things that reminded him of her. Then he moved to Chiapas. He comes to Parque de Marimba to dance on the weekends. All the ladies love him because he is a smooth-talker. Okay, so maybe it needs more details, but I like to imagine it my way…

Fiesta!

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Today was the first birthday party I’ve attended since I’ve been here in Tuxtla. I’ve heard about how parents go aalllll out.

It was fun! I hopped a bus to Coita in enough time to make my ride to the party. Then I found out that they forgot I was coming. It was a little awkward. I keep getting forgotten, and so I’ve decided from now on I’ll just make it if I can get myself there. It doesn’t help that I can’t really communicate enough to call them up and make sure our plans are still on. Ugh.

So, anyway, this party was cute! I decided to play some of the games with the kids because I was obviously the outsider at the party. I had three young girls sitting around me for a while, asking to learn English. It is funny how open kids are, and how they will slowly say things and act things out. I also thought it was interesting because they asked for their names in English. Cute!

The best part was little Isaac (pronounced Ee-zack). I just love him–he loves his little cousin (actually his niece), and when she got ready he kept saying how pretty she was. When he got ready, he came into the kitchen and said, “Look!” I, of course, told him how guapo he was (I know that word…haha) During the party, he danced with Aleli (I have no idea if it is spelled correctly, but it’s pronounced Ah-Lay-Lee). They were dancing so quickly they kind of blurred. When I have kids, I want one just like Little Isaac. He even loves on me, and he doesn’t even know me.

They had fun games and lots of music. I even heard Achy Breaky Heart in Spanish. It was a fun time, for sure!

Cute Isaac and the Piñata
Cute Gabriel and the guitar
Fun song and dance

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