Saturday, April 30, 2011

April 30: wedding

Today we were invited to a wedding!  Above is a bad picture (sorry, I was able to get only one) of the mother of the bride, Emma, our ama de casa -- our housekeeper.  She has five daughters and three sons, and this was the last daughter to get married.  Emma is very unusual for a middle-aged Mexican woman in being so thin, and all her daughters resemble her in this.  The wedding was held in La Iglesia de San Francisco, to my mind a more beautiful church than the Parroquia at the Jardin, and the church held enough flowers to stock five flower shops.  Tonight Emma will be wearing my red dress that I bought in Tunisia a few years ago, embroidered with gold thread.

We were able to understand relatively little Spanish because of the reverberation of the loud amplified sound caused such distortion -- the priest wore a big microphone around his neck.  The service took over an hour.  It began with something that astonished me:  two women leading prayers (photo below)!  The bride and groom are seated at the center.  Emma and her husband Francisco, resplendent in his white mariachi uniform, are seated at the left with the maid of honor in front of them.  At the right are the groom's parents and the best man.

It's a good thing the matrimonial couple had big white soft cushions to kneel on, because they were kneeling for a long time.

The picture below was after the exchange of rings, but the service was far from over.

After the priest and the altar boy gave communion up front to the newlyweds and their families, people in the church who also wanted to take communion lined up.

After the service was the time for photos.  The newlyweds and the bride's parents:

And finally, both extended families:

What an honor!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

April 28

So here's the big news of the moment:

Tres gatitos!  Three kittens.  Our housekeeper knew I wanted kittens, and before I could get them from the SPA here she brought three from a litter that a friend's cat had.  Three is more than I bargained for -- I wanted one or two -- but here they are.  And at 5 weeks they're younger than we're used to, but they are eating canned food and using the litter box:  obviously very precocious kittens.  I have been cat-less since our cat, Lila Tov (= good night in Hebrew) ran off at the first rest stop on our trip down here in January.  As you can imagine, I have spent hours watching them, to the point where I could decide which kitten warranted which name.  Hacer (to do) is the most active one.  Estar (to be, temporary) is the tentative, skittish one.  And Ser (to be, permanent) is the even-tempered one.  Great names, yes?

Last week it was Semana Santa (Holy Week) here in San Miguel, and I think the town could exist financially on the tourist income from this week alone.  There were huge crowds and the streets were filled with folks looking to make a buck while they could.

For a camera this is irresistible stuff.

And this week in the cooking lesson we made paella marinara!  Only seafood, because one person at dinner didn't eat meat or chicken.  It was absolutely superb.  Here's the recipe.

Paella Marinara

Maestra de Cocina Yurina Peralta, el 26 abril, 2011
San Miguel de Allende

Recipe for 6 people

3 small crabs, halved
1 lb shrimp
1 lb mussels
½ lb precooked calamari, cut in bite-size pieces
2 filets white fish, cut in bite-size pieces
1 lb green beans, cut in small pieces
½ lb fresh peas
1 red pepper, cut in small pieces
1 onion, diced
5 cloves garlic, sliced
3 cups paella rice (precooked so it won’t stick together)
Powdered saffron to taste
Salt to taste
Paella pan:  about 18” in diameter, about 6” high, with a cover

Brown onion and garlic.
Add a LOT of water.  Heat to just under boiling.
Boil peas separately to soften
Add string beans and calamari
Remove gooey green stuff from crab.
Add crab, shrimp, and mussels.  All ingredients spread evenly over pan.
Sprinkle in powdered saffron until water is colored
Add salt to taste
Sprinkle in rice.  If wanted, add saffron if color isn’t deep enough
Add peas (when tender) and red pepper.
After a while, add white fish.
Simmer, partially covered for a good while.  The rice is very hard and needs time to absorb water.  Cook until rice is tender.

At first I thought the paella pan, which Yurina had and loaned to me to make this, was nice but unnecessary.  Having cooked the paella, however, I see it is necessary for the ingredients to be spread out flat rather than piled up vertically.  The pan was so large we lit four burners under it.  So if you make this yourself, use the widest pan you can.  And by the way, use whatever seafood you like -- this is what I could get (frozen) here.  And/or, pork, chicken, sausage.

Another thing I've meant to talk to you about is medical care here.  Since we arrived in January I've had two contacts with the medical establishment.  A few weeks ago I got food poisoning from eating something I should have known not to eat -- not local food at all but smoked fish that David and Shree brought with them when they arrived.  It had been unrefrigerated too long, and I gambled and lost.  When my fever climbed to over 102 degrees we went to the emergency room of the local for-profit hospital, the only one we knew the location of.  They gave me medicine for the fever and an anti-biotic, and this cost 2100 pesos, roughly $200, and medicine to take home cost another $65.  Next time we'll go to the cheaper hospital here in town, and we now know where it is.  Imagine, $200 for a hospital emergency room is too much!

I've also seen another doctor who specializes in gynecology and endocrinology for my insomnia, because it had recently occurred to me that the insomnia dated from about the time of menopause and thus might have something to do with hormones. I checked it out on the web and sure enough, a connection has been established for some women.  This man, who came highly recommended, charged way too much because he recently moved here from Mexico City and I think hasn't adjusted his fees yet.  He charged 1,000 pesos (about $90), while I'm told that ordinary doctors' fees are 300 or 400 pesos ($27 or $35) and specialists like him charge 500 pesos ($45); I imagine that Dr. Roberto will have to reduce his fees soon.  For 1000 pesos I had an extraordinary appointment, from 4:00 to 5:45.  First, a detailed health history that took probably an hour.  Then a physical exam that included a gynecological exam while we were in the neighborhood, including an ultrasound of my ovaries and uterus, a first for me.  Last, prescriptions for estrogen and progesterone, which I took to the pharmacy and filled for about $50.  Dr. Roberto spoke excellent English and I liked him very much -- that appointment simply blew me away -- but I told him that he cannot be my regular doctor because I cannot afford him.  But imagine what the practice of medicine would be in the US if it weren't for managed care.  This was very, very luxurious.  And the estrogen seems to be helping!  I'll know more in a few more weeks or maybe a couple of months, but there has been improvement that I hope is not just temporary.  Now why didn't all those doctors I saw in the US never ask me about the onset or consider the possibility that estrogen might be implicated?

Friday, April 22, 2011

April 22

First, I know you've been waiting for recipes.  Two weeks' worth.

Molotes en Salsa Pasilla

Maestra de Cocina Yurina Peralta, el 5 abril, 2011
San Miguel de Allende

Recipe for 7 people

Molotes:  pieces of lean beef (I think it was rump steak) flattened by the butcher, and wrapped around filling like a burrito.

Pasilla is a dry chile that is not very spicy.

7 pieces of rump steak (tell butcher para una milanesa)
6 small carrots
4 small/medium potatoes
2 chayote squashes (small)
a little white flour
¼ kg pasilla chiles (dry)
1 lg clove garlic
1 medium onion
1 tbsp + salt

Dice carrots and squash finely; put in bowl.
Dice potatoes; put in another bowl.
Put the pasilla chiles in boiling water for about 20 minutes until soft.
To make each molote:
            Sprinkle salt and pepper
            Place handful of carrots and chayote in the middle
            Gently fold over, like a burrito
            Fasten with toothpicks
Dredge molotes in white flour
Fry in olive oil until both sides are brown, not too much time.  Remove from heat.


Remove stems, veins, and seeds from chiles and put in blender.
Add to blender:  sliced onion, garlic clove, and salt, and fill halfway with fresh water (the water in which the chiles boiled is too spicy).  Blend and slowly add more fresh water to top of blender.
Put some olive oil in frypan and diced potatoes and some salt.  If any carrot/chayote mixture is left, add it here. 
When potatoes are al dente, add salsa.  Stir, then pour over molotes.  Cook covered, over low heat about 20 minutes:  if high heat or cooked long time, the chiles become bitter.

And for the vegetarians among you ...

Calabaza de Queso, Ensalada Jardinera,
Guacamole, Ensalada de Nopales

Maestra de Cocina Yurina Peralta, el 12 abril, 2011
San Miguel de Allende

Recipe for 7 people

Calabaza de Queso — Stuffed Zucchini Squash

7 squashes
½ kg red tomatoes
½ onion
Salt and pepper
½ kg hard cheese:  gouda or manchego

Cut cheese into long strips.
Gently hollow out a long hole in the squash from the stem end, and push the cheese into it. (Mexican squashes are short and straight, so this is possible.)  Fill the end with some of the hollowed-out pieces.  Place on plate.
Cut and blend tomatoes, onion, salt and pepper.  If there are any squash pieces left, blend those too.
Cook tomato mixture in large frypan about 15 minutes.
Place squashes in frypan, cover with tomato mixture, and simmer over low fire about ¾ hour.  Not too much or they will fall apart.

Ensalada Jardinera — Cooked Garden Salad

2 potatoes
2 chayote squashes
¼ kg. string beans
5 carrots
1 onion
fresh garbanzo beans or other beans for protein
Any other vegetables you want

Peel potatoes and carrots
Dice all ingredients
Steam vegetables
Remove to bowl and add olive oil, salt, pepper, seasoning to taste

Otro Ensalada de Nopales (prickly pear cactus)

 Rinse nopales pieces well and soak in colander to start taking the ooze out
Boil until color changes.  Change water and boil again – 2 or 3 more times.  Strain.
Put olive oil in frypan and add half an onion, sliced thin.  When a little brown, add nopales.
Add salt and pepper to taste.
Put in bowl, add cherry tomatoes cut in pieces for color.

Traditional Mexican Guacamole

Dice avocadoes and press with spoon.  Add diced cilantro leaves, lime juice salt, half an onion cut in very small pieces.  Mix and serve.

There was no cooking lesson this past week:  enough food!  Monday, the day before Cooking Lesson Tuesday, was Passover and we had a Seder here, our first Mexican Seder.  We even found a place to get matzoh:  a store-owner here is Israeli and places orders with a source in Mexico City.  All the comforts of home.  We were seven at our Seder, and because it was potluck it was easy to prepare and so companiable.  Really wonderful.

Never visit here in April or May.  My poor brother and sister-in-law, who were here earlier this month, were the beneficiaries of our ignorance about San Miguel weather at this time.  It is hot as hell, often in the 90s.  I now walk with an umbrella for shade.  It's a dry heat so if you sit in the shade it's comfortable, but any kind of exertion or being in the sun is pretty hard, especially for people like us who love the cool Pacific Northwest weather.  Our bedroom is on the second floor and the warmer temperature upstairs is noticeable.  We sleep at night with a ceiling fan and two floor fans, and it's just bearable.  Rick, thank goodness, covered the large central skylight on the roof, about 12' by 5', which has an opening in the second floor down to the first:  the extra heat through the glass was terrible.  And because of the heat we leave the doors open.  The windows have screens but the doors don't so the mosquitoes get in.  We keep getting emails from friends bemoaning the cold, wet weather but we are envious.  Bitch, bitch, bitch ...

A week ago there was the most spectacular, marvelous, superb event!  IT RAINED!  Since we arrived here in mid-January, the most it has done has gotten some clouds and even once a real rain sky.  But no rain.  After this heat you can imagine how much everyone wants rain, but the rainy season is the summer.  David and Shree left early Saturday morning and missed the drama that day.  First the clouds, then actual rain, and then even hail!  True, not very big hailstones, but if you look closely you can see them.

It drizzled all night and the next day was glorious:  fresh, clear, cool air, sunshine of course, and temperatures in the low 80s. You don't know relief until you have experienced this.  Since then, the weather has been gradually working its way back up the thermometer, but I am so grateful.

You have probably already seen the blog with Shree's pictures. Here are a few of mine to augment hers.  This is one I took of Shree dancing at the place with the marvelous guitarists.  She's in the center facing the camera.

I took a few photos of the colors of Mexico, colors that we don't usually see in North America.  These are flowers that were going to be used for decorations for a wedding.

And on another day there were dancers performing at the Jardin -- you have heard me mention entertainment in the Jardin many times.  These dancers were getting ready to go on stage, helping with each other's makeup.

In the United States we have Good Friday and Easter Sunday, but here in Mexico there is la Semana Santa -- Holy Week.  Actually, more than a week.  Last Friday, nine days before Easter Sunday, there was El Viernes de la Columna.  Seems there was a priest 250 years ago who to my mind was seriously neurotic, deep into self-mortification.  He led a procession from Atotonilco, a nearby town with the bloodiest statue of Jesus I have ever seen, to San Miguel, about 15 kilometers, carrying the bloody statue, flagellating himself while wearing a crown of thorns all the while.  Now it's a tradition.  I'm told they skip the worst of the self-flagellation but make the procession every year, starting in the middle of the night.

We have also had El Viernes de las Dolores, Friday of Sorrows.  How the Virgin could know a week ahead of time that her son was going to be killed escapes me, but no matter.  Windows are "decorated" with purple fabric or crepe paper, symbol of mourning.  All around San Miguel in churches, stores and homes, open-to-the-public altars are created to commemorate the Virgin's pain and sorrow over her son's death.  All the design elements you see below, including the oranges, are symbolic of something or other; next year I'll do this properly and let you know what it all means.  From a design perspective, it's marvelous. 

Yesterday was Good Friday, the day Christ was crucified, and there were special processions and masses everywhere.  Today there are two major processions in town.  In one there is a special statue of Jesus which has been rigged up to allow his head to turn, which I am told it does, once, as he gazes sorrowfully at a statue of his mother.  In another there are thousands of people dressed up like Roman soldiers, little girls in white with purple sashes at their waists, women in black carrying a statue of the Virgin, etc.  And tomorrow in the Jardin there are many paper-maché hanging effigies of Judas that are burst to the accompaniment of fireworks and other explosions.  Interestingly enough, I have seen nothing about the resurrection of Jesus.  Except for exploding Judases, the emphasis seems entirely on misery, a great contradiction with the Mexican talent for celebration and happiness.  Perhaps eventually I will understand it better.

But much like Christmas in the U.S., Holy Week is a big-deal holiday.  Businesses are closed Friday and some of them for more days than that.  San Miguel is filled with mostly Mexican tourists taking advantage of the holiday to have a vacation, although some, I assume, are here for religious purposes.

And I wanted to give you an update on the adult education program that I'm trying to start at the Biblioteca here in town.  A couple of weeks ago, with the friend (Luba) I'm working with I presented it to the Board of Directors at the Biblioteca.  They were very positive about the idea, but since the Biblioteca has so recently been in the red and only survived by cutting expenses and staff way back, they are leery of starting something that requires a financial outlay with no guarantee of success even if it promises a steady income stream.  So one Board member volunteered to work with us on a stripped-down pilot project.  We've written the proposal which will be presented at their next meeting later this week.  If all goes well we'll be able to offer three courses in November, and if that goes well we should be able to scale up starting in the summer semester next year.

Enjoy your spring!


Shree's photos, April 22

My brother and sister-in-law (mi hermano y mi cuñeda) visited for a week and a half.  Thank goodness for visitors:  you get to see many things you would not otherwise have seen, because visitors are much more conscientious with a camera than those of us who live here all the time.  You will enjoy this!

First, the photographer, Shree Mickelson.  (Well, okay, I took this picture.)

And my brother, David Mickelson.  These photos and the next ones were taken on the rooftop terrace of a hugely expensive new hotel/restaurant, the Rosewood, that opened here a couple of months ago.  Rooms start at $300 a night, and 4 drinks on the terrace cost $50.  But what a view!


They joined me at my conversational Spanish class every day, having learned some Spanish in a trip they took to Cuba a few years ago.

Pretty fine place for a class, isn't it?  And here is our teacher, Elvira.  She was born in San Miguel and has taught English for 50 years.  Hard to believe, but she's 70.  An amazing teacher:  I can understand every syllable she says.

Shree also joined me for my weekly cooking lesson.  (I'll put the recipes on the next blog.)  First, of course, is the mercado (market) where we buy what we need for the dinner.  In this picture, the green round things are prickly pear cactus -- nopales in Spanish -- which you cut up and drain of the gooey stuff, sort of like okra, and then you can cook it or eat it raw.  Yurina, my friend and cooking teacher, has taught me two ways to make nopales and I give up.  Yuk.

Here we are, Shree, Yurina and me, in the kitchen preparing the meal.

I am scribbling down what Yurina is teaching us how to do, which will become the recipe you read on this blog.

And here is the fruit of our effort!  From the left, Rick, me, our friends Natalie, Louis, and Luba, and David.

Shree took this photo of Rick and Mela outside our house.  The shrine to the Virgin protects the house from graffiti!

She took this excellent photo of Rick.

David and I are talking in the shade at the Jardin.

This could be a Utrillo painting, of one of the beautiful San Miguel streets.

And an evening on the town.  First, a fine dinner at Hacienda Guadalupe.

Walking through the Jardin, we found an amazing thing:  a Mexican Klezmer band that played superb Klezmer music -- "Bei Mir Bist Du Schön" and others -- and consisted of non-Jewish Mexicans!  We asked them where we could hear them again but the next day they were traveling to Mexico City to play there.

Every weekend there is a Sound and Light show at / on the Parroquia, the main church in town facing the Jardin, to commemorate the Bicentennial.  This is simply a spectacular photo.

And two excellent guitarists, Jack and Frances, to round off the evening:

To conclude this photographic tour of life in San Miguel, another visual treat.


 Thank you, Shree!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

April 2

Hola, everyone

As I write, the church bells are ringing and birds in my garden are chirping madly — they love to splash in the fountain.  There are gentle white clouds in the sky but it's mostly sunny.  It's been pretty warm these last couple of weeks, only in the 80s but the sun is very strong so it feels warmer.  I've taken to walking with an umbrella, and at night we sleep with an overhead fan and a floor fan.  We haven't been here in this season before, but I am told it starts getting warm in mid-March until the rains that start in June begin to cut the heat a bit.

Since I wrote last, I went to see Dido and Aeneas, an opera by Handel as part of the Baroque Music Festival, and the following day Rick and I, along with our friends Victor and Roberta, went to the final concert in the series.  It was held outdoors in the canyon at the Botanical Park just outside of town.  Such a thing would never, never, never, never be allowed in the US.  After a walk down a hillside, people were perched precariously on steep rocks, many near drops onto other rocks 50 feet below.  Just think what the liability insurance would cost!

In the photo below is Roberta, with the red umbrella, and Victor, with the shawl to keep out the sun.  They were on a rock a bit above us.

But it was an extraordinary scene:

And when the concert finally started, people watched monarch butterflies float through the canyon as they listened to the music.  The musicians are wearing white shirts in the upper middle of the photo below.

Towards the end of the concert, some people were concerned about the twilight and started leaving early.  When you consider that the footing for young people with perfect balance was pretty iffy — and the consequences of a fall on these rocks pretty frightening — it's amazing that so many people, including a lot of older people, wanted to be there.  I have to admit that I've done my canyon concert and see no need to go back again next year, especially because unless the wind was in the right direction, which it wasn't, it's hard to hear the music.  But I'm so glad I did it.

I have two cooking lesson recipes to give you!  On March 22 we made chicken molé and red Mexican rice.  Yurina tells me that red rice is served in fiestas.  For first, we made vegetable soup.  These recipes are for 8.

Sopa de Verduras — Vegetable Soup

8 pieces chicken (used also for pollo con mole)
Zucchini squash
4 Carrots
1/3 small cabbage
Any other vegetables
2 ears corn on the cob, cut into 4 pieces
Serrano chilis

Wash chicken and remove all fat.  Put in large pot with lots of water over high fire.
Add salt
Add half to one cup of diced onion
Add a large garlic clove
Skim scum from soup.
Add vegetables, hardest ones first (e.g. carrots)
Remove chicken when well cooked.
Cook soup another half hour.
Cut up small bowls of limes, Serrano chile (removing the veins reduces the spiciness), and diced onion to serve with soup when serving.
To serve, put one piece of corn in the center of soup bowl, add more vegetables, and broth.

Polle con Mole — Chicken with Mole Sauce

The same 8 pieces of chicken as for the soup
1 lb prepared mole sauce
A small piece of dark chocolate

Put mole in pot and add 4 ladles or more chicken soup from soup pot.  Mash and stir it smooth.  Add a small piece of chocolate.  Stir nonstop (!) for 30 minutes.
When chicken is thoroughly boiled, remove from soup and put in mole pot.  Cover with mole and let sit to absorb flavor for a little while.

Arroz Rojo — Red Rice

About 2 cups white rice (half a package!)
About ¼ to ½ cup fresh peas
4 roma tomatoes
¼ large onion
1 large clove garlic
2 large stems parsley leaves
2 tsp salt
3 carrots, diced
Olive oil

Boil peas in small pot about 40 minutes
Peel and cut tomatoes in pieces; liquefy in blender
Add onion, garlic, parsley and salt to blender; liquefy again
In large pot, add some olive oil.  When hot, add rice and diced carrots.  Stir until dark golden (rice for arroz rojo is cooked darker than for arroz blanco)
Pour in water to twice the height of rice, and add peas.  Add a couple of ladles of chicken soup from the pot.
Pour in tomato mixture from blender.
Cook over low fire until rice is done to taste.

And the following week, which was Roberta's last (she's shared my cooking lessons all four weeks she's been here), we made cream of corn soup and pork in tomatoes.  Again, recipe for 8.

Entomatadado de Puerco (Tomato mixture with Pork)

1.5 lbs green tomatillos
1 lb red tomatoes
2 lbs pork shoulder or other cut of pork
6 large cloves garlic
1 large onion
4 small-medium potatoes
1 small chipotle chile (canned is fine)
Black beans

Put meat slices, with the bones, in a lot of water and cook until soft.  If it’s fresh it will take 1 to 2 hours.  Add four garlic cloves to the water.

Cut red tomatoes and tomatillos in small pieces.  Put in large frypan and cook gently over small fire.

Cut potatoes in small pieces; dice onion; dice 2 cloves garlic.

When the tomatillos are starting to turn a duller green, add onion.  Cook a little while and when the mixture is soft, add potatoes.  Add the chile cut in very small pieces, and the diced garlic.  Keep cooking over very low fire until potatoes are soft but not too soft:  al dente.  Stir occasionally and watch to see that it doesn’t burn.

Add salt to taste.

When the meat is soft, add to tomato mixture.  If too soupy, allow liquid to evaporate; if too stiff, add water from meat pot.

Garnish with chopped parsley and serve warm.  Also serve with black beans (frijoles negros) on the side.

Sopa de Crema de Elote (Cream of Corn Soup)

6 ears corn
½ liter milk
1 tbsp butter
A little dry rosemary, crumbled
Optional:  dry sherry

If you’re making this with the entomatado de puerco, you can boil the ears of corn (shucked, of course) in the same pot as the meat.

When boiled, cut off the kernels.  Reserve a small dish of kernels for garnish.

Put about a cup or more of kernels into the blender.  Add 5-6 ladles of water from the meat/corn pot.  Liquify.  Pour this stuff into a wire mesh strainer over a large pot.  Mash it down so that the cream of the corn goes into the pot and only the pulp is left in the strainer.

Put the pulp back into the blender and add another cup or so of kernels, with water from the pot.  Repeat, putting all the accumulated pulp again into the blender, until the kernels are used up, and then do it a few times more to extract as much of the corn cream as possible.  (You can save the pulp to make a corn pastry dessert with.)

Boil the soup gently, stirring constantly:  it will thicken a little. 

Add the milk and reheat. 

Before serving, you can add just a little sherry, perhaps 3 tbsp for a large pot of soup, just to round off the taste – optional.

Garnish with corn kernels and serve hot.

I have learned that the left-over corn soup thickens considerably, which is terrific too.

And as always on our Tuesdays, we have a veritable salon going here for dinner.  This past Tuesday Victor and Roberta Bremsons were here, as well as our friend Milt Fisher, who like the Bremsons went home at the end of March.  With them were Mike Hatch, our current house guest (he left a few days ago) and our Mexican friends Gerardo and Magda.  With 8 people, our table was full.  I love Tuesdays:  a party every week!

The chamber music series is winding down for the season.  Last weekend we heard a marvelous pianist, Stephen Prutsman, doing an innovative program he had presented last fall at Carnegie Hall — for I'm sure 10 times as much money.  He interspersed Bach preludes and fugues from Book 2 of the Well Tempered Clavier with other short pieces, modern and not so modern.  I looked up the New York Times review afterward and saw that they had loved it too.  Tomorrow night there's a classical guitarist, the last concert until the new series in October.  I love these concerts, and for only100 pesos -- about $9.

Afterward, several of us went to dinner at San Miguel's chinese restaurant (!), which was actually very good.  I met a woman there who used a memorable phrase to describe San Miguel.  She called it "a fantasyland for people with a brain."  Exactly right!

The following day we had a party at our house.  If you are you saying, "So what's new?"  you'd be right!  The sister of Yurina, my cooking teacher, was visiting from Cuernavaca, and I invited the whole family over for lunch.  Twelve of them came!  Conversation was split between Spanish and English, and this family feels more and more like my own.  I met Yurina through her brother, Gerardo, and I've met other family members through them both.  Later in the week Yurina invited us over to her house for dinner, too -- she made pozole, which was delicious and which I will learn how to make and share with you.  I feel very privileged to have these wonderful Mexican friends.

I have had my intermediate Spanish conversation class every day at noon at the Instituto Allende, and my Spanish is gradually, slowly, getting a little better.  I can now occasionally — although not often! — use a verb in the past tense or the imperfect.  The conditional is still beyond me.  It's a challenge and I'm enjoying it.  I'm also working hard on the adult education course I'm proposing to the Biblioteca.  The Board meeting at which it will be considered and presumably voted on is two weeks from yesterday, April 15.  I'm working on it with a friend here, Luba, and she and I have been amassing data.  There is no competition, judging from a local website listing classes and course.  The potential demand seems strong, judging from a survey Luba and I have done with about 80 people,  and the budget indicates the Biblioteca would make some nice money from it while still keeping the course fee low.  If all goes well, the first classes would start in October.  I'll keep you posted!