Midwesterner in Mexico Rotating Header Image

Only in Mexico

The Burros are Back!!

Some things are so important to alert my readers to that I have to emerge from my 2-month blog hibernation to do so.  Any guesses what could possibly make that exclusive priority list? The Feria Nacional del Burro, of course!!

For any readers who had the misfortune of missing my live coverage from the National Donkey Fair 2010, rest assured that you can review both the emotional buildup to the event and the actual event here. Even though I knew it was unlikely that I would be able to attend Otumba’s premier annual tourist draw this year, I have been trying to monitor the innerwebs for further details to share with my many friends in Mexico City who will surely be dying to go. I was almost sidetracked from this quest by starting a new job (yipee!), but it appears I uncovered this year’s DonkeyFest just in time!!

You can review the full agenda for the 2011 Feria Nacional del Burro here. My instinct says that the day to go is this Sunday, May 1st, as that is the day of both the carnival & the burro races, as well as some burro polo. Sunday is the last day of the festival, and I have to say, all the other festival days seem heavy on bands/dance troupes and light on DONKEYS DRESSED LIKE AN AMERICAN TOURIST.  So choose your day wisely. Furthermore, do not dally or foolishly sleep in on Sunday– the good events (i.e. the burro polo) start at 10AM, and it will take you around an hour to get to Otumba from Mexico City.

The website http://otumbariam.wordpress.com/ appears to be the source of info for this year’s gathering (and they are also twittering up a storm). While it is not as witty as their now-defunct website from the 2010 event, I am going to give the Feria Nacional del Burro organizers the benefit of the doubt– surely they’ve chosen to invest their hilarity/sarcasm in donkey costumes rather than html coders. The below poster with a donkey in a frame also bodes well:

How could this event possibly disappoint you??

If you’re uncertain on how to get to Otumba, check out the ever-reliable Google Maps, or hire a taxi– Otumba is just a bit past the pyramids (a.k.a. Teotihuacan). I reckon you could negotiate a <$1000-peso rate for a taxi for the day. Once you arrive in town, just follow the braying & the clip-clopping of delicate hooves.

While I wither away this weekend in the donkey-less capital of Mexico’s northern neighbor, I am going to be relying on my faithful readers in DF to allow me to live vicariously through you. Please, report back on how the Feria has grown to be bigger & better than ever. Get your photo taken on a brahma bull. Purchase an inordinate amount of burro-themed crap. Adorn yourself in burro ears. I will be awaiting word. :)

Mexican Decor: more is more

I had an affinity for Mexican-themed decor at an early age, judging by this clay taco I just unearthed from my box of “Julie’s Elementary/Junior High School Stuff”.

One may wonder why I did not pursue my indisputable, God-given artistic talents instead of silly engineering.

For anyone wondering– no, this is not a rabbit poo taco. Those small brown pellets are obviously ground beef, accompanied by orange shredded cheese, thin pieces of green lettuce, and hearty cubes of tomatoes. (Please note that I was also way ahead of the curve on the whole “stand-n-stuff” taco shell concept.)

One might think that with this clay taco, the Mexican decor quota has been filled for our townhouse. Clearly you don’t have a sense of my enthusiasm for a good theme. Ever since John shot down my idea of a meatthemed bathroom a few years back, I have been yearning for some other way to liven up at least one of the four bathrooms we have in our townhouse. (As they say– rich in bathrooms, poor in square footage.) His resolve seemed to falter upon our return from Mexico City as we tried to distribute all our new acquisitions throughout our distinctly non-latino-feel home, and I somehow managed to convince him that a lucha libre-themed bathroom was a good idea. (He really brought it on himself by choosing a rust-orange Earthen Jug paint color for the half bath that simply screamed, “Transport me to Mexico!!”)

Before John could reflect any further, up went the plaster lucha heads & the Wrestle Pets:

Who doesn't like the feeling of being watched while you're using the bathroom?

And the lucha mirror:

"There are men who fight."

And the agave plant that even I can’t kill:

This agave is simply thriving in our half bathroom. The lack of sunlight does not appear to have bothered it.

I know, you are silently judging me right now. But let he who does not have a fish or nautical-themed bathroom cast the first stone. :)

I will, however, admit to being a bit overdue in taking down our “Back from Mexico” celebratory decor, but I’ve rather enjoyed the feeling of a constant fiesta in our living room.

Don't these papel picados liven up an otherwise borderline-classy living room?

In case you’re having trouble reading my homemade banner, here’s a close up:

It's only a matter of time before every party store is awash in these.

For those who aren’t fans of a little gallows humor, perhaps you will instead appreciate my Mexican recipe research (which counts as decor because it’s still hanging on the cupboard door in our kitchen). I realized how many of our favorite Mexican dishes we never actually made in Mexico, since great food was so cheap & readily available at amazing restaurants across D.F.  It took some effort to assess appropriate salsa & sangrita recipes, and many thanks to Lesley for several tips.

Consider a selection of these for your next Mexican-themed gathering! Our optimized sangrita recipe is in the middle column of the right-hand page in black, created after reflecting on the 5 recipes on the left. :)

And finally, some of my favorite more-subtle purchases found a home on the wall above the piano. We quite liked these lacquered photos from Michelle Westholm that provide some great snippets of Mexican life.

You can almost smell those pollos roasting...

What do you think– is it time to take down the papel picados? Should I start a business selling snarky party banners?? Does the phrase “half bath” by definition mean that it is too small to fit a life-sized mannequin wearing a Santo costume??? 😉

Please make me some jello, Mexico-style

Nestled among the names of a few restaurants & esoteric museums on my “Things I Didn’t Get to Do While I Was in Mexico City” inventory, one activity regarding jello sits there on my list of regrets. Jello wrestling, you ask optimistically? No, my friends. It is actually a cooking class that I had my eye on, entitled “Gelatinas Individuales 3D” (a.k.a 3D Individual Gelatins). The, uh, jello school I found is called Gelart Floral with instructor Lourdes Reyes Rosas; check out her course offerings here.

See, you can almost FEEL the jello-driven excitement pulsating through the air!!

I was never quite able to convince myself that I should pay $1550 pesos (~$123 USD) for a class about jello when growing up in the Midwest, one is already instilled with such a treasure trove of knowledge about how to suspend bits of fruit and/or veg in terrifying jello salads. But the thing is, these are different. If you reside in Mexico, perhaps you’ve already seen them being sold at a street stand or carried around the Zocalo in those multi-leveled glass dessert housings? They are small, individual-sized (maybe 4″ in diameter?), half-sphere jello molds that appear to have a flower trapped inside of them. A THREE DIMENSIONAL flower trapped inside of them. How did it get there? How are its petals formed with such precision? Does it taste any good? These are all open questions for me. Don’t make yourself suffer in ignorance, as I have been doing for the last month. 😉

Just a sampling of the many 3D floral offerings that you could soon master... (photo courtesy Lourdes' website)

The reason I highlight these jello art forms to you today– I am still on Lourdes’ mailing list that announces her monthly schedule of jello training in addition to other dessert lessons, like how to make the traditional Rosca de Reyes that is made each January with a plastic baby Jesus baked inside of it. (Come on, surely THAT piques your curiosity enough to book a flight to Mexico right now!!) Anyway, another Gelatinas Individuales 3D class is coming up this month!! Monday December 13th, folks, in Colonia Navarte, Mexico DF.  Sure, it’s during the workday from 11-3, but tell me that you’re not the least bit intrigued…?  Yes or no: these would be the most novel thing you’ve ever seen at a dinner party? I say yes!

Surely these taste as good as they look...?? (Photo courtesy http://bit.ly/dYXt37)

Basically, I am counting on one of my Mexico City friends to go take this class, and then come visit me in Arlington, VA and teach me how to make these gems. What’s in it for you, you might ask? Well, besides the obvious benefit of becoming the Most Talented Jello Artist in your family/circle of friends, I feel like this is probably also good clown training. Don’t these feel like something a clown might hand out at a birthday party? A trendy, fashionable clown? So you can also consider this career retraining– arm yourself today with the skills to compete in the economy of tomorrow!! (Assuming it is an economy dependent on highly-skilled clowns.)

To get more info about the class, drop Lourdes an email at lourdes@gelartfloral.com. Please do not hesitate to get in touch once you are a certified Gelatinologist, and I look forward to learning all that you know. The world thanks you in advance for spreading the magic of Mexican jello molds across borders.

Happy Halloween!

A very Happy Halloween to all those here in the US this evening! Today marks our official re-entry into Normal Life 2.0, as we arrived this evening back to Arlington, Virginia after 2 years and 3 months living in Mexico City. We’ve been on a 2700+ mile road trip starting in Denver, Colorado on October 14, had the chance to see lots of lovely friends & family along the way, met lots of precious new babies/toddlers, and suffered only one car accident– luckily no injuries to anyone except my pretty blue Nissan Altima that my suegra had kept in fantastic shape while we were away. I think the Altima may be regretting his change in ownership… :)

Some dude turning left in front of me at the last minute in an intersection was a most unpleasant turn of events as we arrived into Chicago.

But you may really be wondering, “Julie, how did you know that you were no longer in Mexico?” I know, I know… it can be tricky to differentiate, but here are a few of the signs:

1) We had to pump our own gas AND wash our own windshield.

This was novel... for like 30 seconds. How can it be that having someone else pump your gas went out of vogue in the US??

2. We got to stand next to someone taller than we are, who also has blonde hair.

Cousin Kami & her darling 4-month-old twins, Lucy & Sam.

3. We were pressured by family members to wear Uncle Sam & Betsy Ross hairpieces/hats.

This was part of our re-indoctrination process, courtesy Uncle Ken & Aunt Kathy

4. We began seeing a lot of mashed potatoes & gravy and fried chicken. Not to mention corn off the cob that lacked a layer of mayo/cheese/lime juice/chile powder slathered atop it.

Obesity problem in America?? What could you possibly be referring to?

5. Cheladas are no longer made by thoughtful bartenders; they are sold in cans in the supermarket.

I was skeptical of this incarnation of the chelada.

6. The frequency of deer-based cured meat products for sale was markedly increased. Frankly, as was the sale of non-spicy sausage products in general.

John demos how the deer in question might have looked prior to death. Additional bonus of cheese curds in the lower right. Thank you, Wisconsin.

7. Speaking of deer, we saw a dead one riding home to dinner strapped atop someone’s SUV.

This is how middle America does "para llevar". ("to go")

In summary, we’re pretty sure we are back in the States, and now begins a couple weeks of intense home improvements to our townhouse here in Arlington. After two years of renting, there is plenty of work to be done– but we received a positive sign regarding our impending home repairs at the Chinese restaurant we stopped by tonight:

My fortune cookie promised us that "You will have no problems in your home." We're also counting on the "tasty fruit" promised in John's fortune cookie after we kill ourselves painting every wall in the place.

Lest you think that I’ve already forgotten the name of this blog, today’s touch of Mexico comes courtesy of my parents back in Nebraska. My Mom passed along the below photo of my Dad, who pulled a full coordinated outfit together for handing out Halloween candy this evening. I can’t wait to hear how it went. :)

El Matematico de Nebraska could easily compete with any professional luchador with this costume, accompanied by the giant rat that is actually a basket for candy. Well done, Larry!!!

Although my favorite part is how his eyes look slightly crazed, I would like to point out that that is due to the unevenly-sized eye holes of the lucha mask, and not because my Dad actually has uneven eyes. Honest. Larry’s eyes could serve as a level for hanging picture frames; that is just how even his eyes are.

Thanks to all for your well-wishes, and more Mexico anecdotes to continue after we get settled in!

Olympic Festival this weekend in Mexico City

If you’re hanging around Mexico City this weekend, consider checking out the Festival Olímpico Bicentenario. This Bicentennial thing just keeps on coming!! It wouldn’t be a festival in Mexico if a major thoroughfare wasn’t closed off, so of course several blocks of Reforma are shutdown as of last night through Monday. Unaware of this excitement, we chose the Marriott Reforma for our “last few nights in Mexico” hotel, which turns out to be right in the thick of the action. Luckily I can sleep like the dead, but John awoke this morning to the soothing sound of hundreds of angry drivers honking up a storm at the ensuing traffic cluster. :)

I’ve not had much luck finding a detailed itinerary of what’s happening on Reforma (this programa offers the helpful guidance of “start of activities & exhibitions” for 2 full days). But I do know they are setting up multiple olympic-sized pools, basketball courts, gymnastic areas, tennis courts, rugby fields, and more. This is basically the equivalent of setting up a mini-Olympics along Lakeshore Drive in Chicago & completely blocking the most heavily traversed part. It just makes sense, people. You can see the general area below, but you have to go to the website to see the map showing exactly how many fields/courts/pools are getting set up. Hilarious.

Come to Mexico City's pseudo-Olympics & see money being well-spent!!

Additionally, word on the street is that Michael Phelps is supposed to be town for the excitement. This begs the question: how do I get to see Michael Phelps, one of the few people in the world who probably has even longer monkey arms than me? Anyone with a Michael Phelps connection, please advise. Maybe I can get access as a member of the press??

Photo of someone who may or may not be Michael Phelps stolen from the Festival Olímpico website. We are totally going to be hanging out this weekend, I'm sure of it.

After 2.5 full days of packing/loading, the movers seem to be almost done packing our apartment here in Polanco, so I am excited to return to our hotel on Reforma to see if the pools are ready for me to take a dip!

P.S. I think there might be synchronized swimming. This is going to be awesome.

This year’s Christmas Card photo…

…may be sourced from any of these pics from our despedida this past Saturday.  (Despedida = going-away party in Spanish).

Any votes on the winner??

Of course, this would imply that we are motivated enough to actually send out Christmas cards for the first time in our lives.  Hmmm…  Maybe I meant Christmas email…. 😉

P.S. Many thanks to our unpaid photographers for the evening, Jenny & Brian and Aryani & Scott!! You guys rock!

A Visit to the Corona Brewery (aka Cervecería Modelo)

Have you ever thought to yourself, “What could I do today to support a giant, soul-crushing monopoly?”  If you happen to be in Mexico City, I have just the ticket: a visit to Cervecería Modelo, just north of Polanco!

The iconic Corona sign hovering over the large brewery in Mexico City.

The name Grupo Modelo may not immediately ring any bells for non-Mexico residents, but it is the company responsible for many well-known Mexican beers– Corona, Pacifico, Negro Modelo/Modelo, Leon, Victoria, Estrella, Montejo, and Barrilito. It also holds 63% of the Mexican beer market, with nearly all the remainder covered by Heineken/FEMSA; between the two of them, they make life difficult for any young upstarts in the Mexican beer world who are going after that last 3% market share.

That said, I am a fan of both Pacifico and Negro Modelo, and I imagine there may be other readers who have been swayed by Corona’s impressive marketing efforts, so I decided to go check things out this afternoon. I took some guidance from my husband, who went on a Modelo brewery tour a few months ago– he felt the tour was interesting if you’ve never seen the brewing process before, but if you’ve been to other breweries, this tour likely won’t knock your socks off. Needless to say, this girl has seen one or two breweries in her day, so I decided to skip straight to the good stuff: the gift shop.

WHERE: Finding the brewery was easy, and the appropriate entrance was fairly obvious. The map on Grupo Modelo’s website shows roughly where the door is located at Lago Alberto 156 in Colonia Anahuac, Mexico City. You can actually walk there quite easily from the Polanco metro station– once you exit the station, just walk up Arquimedes going north. After carefully crossing a busy street (Ejercito Nacional), you will cross under an overpass (Rio San Joaquin) and then take a right onto Lago Alberto.

You will see these large beer vats as you approach the brewery... Walk forward along the left side of these and then turn right (walking along the far side of this fenced-in area); this will put you on Lago Alberto

The view as you walk towards the entrance of the Cervecería Modelo. Your entrance will be under the flag/seal, just past where all the beer trucks are turning in.

Cross Lago Alberto & enter beneath the seal:

This was taken seconds before I got yelled/whistled at by the security guard in the middle of the photo, who obviously sensed that I was snapping highly-sensitive pics FROM A PUBLIC STREET as part of my plan to infiltrate the brewery.

Once you enter, tell the security guard at the desk that you are there to visit the “Tienda de Propaganda”. You’ll be asked for an ID (so bring some sort of ID with you), signed in & given a badge. Then someone will lead you to the gift shop. The gift shop is open Monday – Friday from 8AM to 5PM.

WHAT: The amusingly-named Tienda de Propaganda is wisely hidden inside the factory, rather than being easily accessible from the street for tourists. 😉  A Modelo employee will lead you along a roped-off sidewalk, while large trucks & carts zip along nearby. Eventually you’ll be dropped off at the uninspiringly-signed hallway leading to the store.

Just look for the Propaganda sign, and take care not to get mowed down by a rapidly-moving forklift.

I think I was hoping for a more over-the-top gift shop (and maybe the chance for a beer sample, let’s be honest), but Modelo’s Tienda de Propaganda nonetheless fulfilled its reason for being: there was no shortage of Corona-covered kitsch to be purchased!! If you are a big beer drinker and/or Modelo-brand beer fan, you should at least find some products here that will help you outpace the Jones’s in the “beer accoutrements” department. :) A lot of the stuff there, neither John nor I have seen elsewhere (though admittedly we may not have been looking that hard).

In the event that you’re on the fence about whether the Corona (and friends) Gift Shop merits a visit, here’s the smattering of its offerings that I was able to surreptitiously photograph:

Oversized 2L plastic beer bottle with screw-on plastic top? Check! ($34 pesos)

A whole bunch of shirts with beer logos/commentary on them in a mixture of English & Spanish? Yes! (prices unclear on my grainy photo, but I believe <$100 pesos)

Old-timey beer trays with old-timey ad images + a tacky surface to prevent glasses from sliding all over the place? Yep! ($42 pesos)

German-looking beer steins that would probably crack in shame if beer this light gets poured into them? Check! And Corona-branded dominos to show up the locals during your next cantina visit. (Dominos ~$140-150 pesos)

Miniature coolers with handles, a magnetic top & a built-in bottle opener? Absolutely! These are one of my favorite items-- John got us the red/blue Corona one a few months back. Prices seem to range from $350 to $600 ish. John estimates ours might hold about 18 beers, so a fun item to have on your counter for a party.

The inflatable section! I succumbed to buying a 1.5m-tall inflatable Pacifico beer bottle. And if we weren't moving back to a pool-less townhouse, I would have definitely bought the sand + palm tree floating bottle holder. I mean, your beer can float next to you in the pool AND be covered in shade at the same time. Brilliant. ($40 pesos for tall bottle)

MY 2-CENT BREWERY TOUR: As previously mentioned, I didn’t do the official brewery tour, but I did snap a couple photos on my way back to the entrance (for which I also got yelled at by a concerned man in a suit).  You’ll quickly be able to decode all the secret details I captured & perhaps start your own competitive brewery, or create an elaborate scheme for breaking into this one.

Apparently Corona & friends come from the cleanest, purest, mountain-fresh water known to man.

To keep morale high, there is colorful old-timey truck & fake beer barrels inside the main entrance. Que preciosa, eh?

The best part is that no one yelled at me for taking a photo of the Modelo cerveza-making process:

OMG! It's all out in the open now, people. I trust you will have no problem replicating these beer-making and packaging processes to create your own brewery intent on world domination!!

If you’re interested in a more elaborate tour of the Cervecería Modelo than what my photos can provide, drop an email to visitas@gmodelo.com.mx. I even received a same-day response to my inquiry! Their tours seem to skew more towards large groups, but the email I received indicated that if I was alone, I could be attached on to an existing group. Lic. Flor Santillana is the woman from the PR dept who coordinates tours, and tours are available Monday through Friday, seemingly at 9AM, 11AM and 3PM, but I would definitely call/email first, as I’m not sure they’ll accommodate you if you just show up. Additional questions, you can call 55.5262.1200 ext 2336.

Tours are available at Modelo’s other breweries as well, so if you’re in Zacatecas, Guadalajara, Ciudad Obregon in Sonora, Mazatlan, Tuxtepec in Oaxaca, or Torreon in Coahuila, check here to get the contact info & set one up!

I hope this satisfies anyone who was curious about where Coronas come from before they end up in a million photos of people’s feet on a sunny beach…. or where you should go once you convince your wife that this should be your new dining room table:

Ahhh if only we had a proper Man Cave for John back in our townhouse in Arlington, VA...

As we say in Mexico before slurping down a cold beer, ¡Salud!


Questionable Ladder Usage…

Now, I’m not saying that this guy isn’t a highly-trained professional…

As seen in Polanco this weekend

….I’m just not saying that he is….

"...just...a little...farther...I can...almost....reach it..."

Anyone in Mexico City offering review courses on ladder operation? Perhaps something like, “Slanted Ladders: Which Side is Your Friend?”

P.S. Bicentenario pics coming soon to a blog near you!! Honest!!

I need a cactus chair

I came across an interesting blog today entitled “Hoy es un gran día para mostrarte lo mejor de México.” (Today is a great day to show you the best of Mexico.)  It’s kind of an assortment of travel hot spots, activities, and design highlights around Mexico. Even if you don’t speak Spanish, he has some great pics to peruse.

Juan Carlos’s blog tipped me off to this chair, which now has me wondering, a) how much of our existing furniture would we have to throw out in order for this chair to look good in our townhouse, and b) should I start playing the Mexican lottery in hopes of winning enough money to buy one?

Do these chairs not scream "I love Mexico"?

And look, they even have pseudo-prickles, in keeping with their namesake prickly pear cactus! (both photos courtesy Juan Carlos's blog)

These are entitled “Prickly Pair Chairs” by the designer Valentina Gonzales Wohlers, who graduated from Ibero here in Mexico City. Check out her website for more info re. the cactus chairs (under “What”, then “Furniture”, then “prickly pair chairs”) or her Facebook page for additional pics. If the prices shown here are accurate, I will be playing the lottery for a looooong time before springing for one of these…  Valentina– any discounts for people who actually live in Mexico??? 😉

This same blog also tipped me off to a new trendy hotel located just across from the US Embassy in the Zona Rosa. While I typically don’t highlight the Zona Rosa as a must-see area for visitors to Mexico City, it is a good central location with easy access to the cooler neighborhoods of Condesa, Roma, and the Centro. The new hotel is from the Room Mate chain, which we found to be quite popular when we were in Spain last year.

My understanding of the concept is that each hotel is given a person’s name & personality traits to make you feel like you’re staying at a friend’s house, combined with fun decor, reasonable price points, and good locations.  Coincidentally, Valentina is the name of the new Room Mate hotel that’s opened in Mexico City, and she is “curious, sporty, and sexy.”

The trendily-decorated lobby of Room Mate Valentina

One of the junior suites at Valentina

The decor looks fab & the price is right (or at least reasonable), starting at $76USD pre-tax for an “executive” room with free wireless, so I will be curious to see if the actual experience matches their fashionable website! Let me know if you’ve stayed here; I will try to pop by & check it out in person sometime in the near future.

In the meantime, I am accepting donations toward a Prickly Pair Chair… :)

Obesity linked to Snickers consumption at gym

My fellow blogger Burro Hall has previously mentioned the ongoing battle between Mexico and the United States over which country can achieve higher obesity rates. Today I discovered another tactic at use in this war. However, it was observed at the US Embassy Fitness Center (patronized by US & Mexican citizens alike), so this tactic seems to be supporting both sides in this obesity quest…

Check out the section I’ve outlined in red below, from the Fitness Center Rules of Operations:

Snickers are required?!? If you're wondering why my gym-going has increased so much, there's your answer in a nutshell. ;)

Ignoring the absence of rules 2, 3, 10, 11, and 13, focus in there on #4: “Proper dress is required, clothes and Snickers at all times.”  Snickers are required at all times in the gym?? No wonder I haven’t made much progress losing weight here…

What the Embassy gym might look like if rules were carefully followed...

Jeez, am I getting tired of seeing THIS guy at the gym every morning. Put a shirt on, will you!!

* Amazing image quality courtesy the winning combo of Microsoft Clip Art and Microsoft Paint, every graphic designer’s dream team 😉

P.S. To avoid the inevitable discussion with some killjoy out there, yes, I realize it is supposed to say “sneakers”, not “Snickers”. *Sigh.*

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...