8 Steps You Too Can Take To Screw Up Cinco de Mayo

I am becoming enamored with the glitz, the glamour, and the glory of food blogs. You know those blogs that make you want to pull out a knife and a fork and begin eating the computer screen! So after having read all these motivational, follow your dream blogs that I have recently subscribed to, I thought I should bite the jalapeno and begin one. So here goes…

1.First of all, you should be unique and celebrate all food holidays before everyone else. That way your blog gets out there first.

Cinco de Mayo on Cuatro de Mayo - be unique and make a Mexican stand!

Cinco de Mayo on Cuatro de Mayo – be unique and make a Mexican stand!

2. Invest in attractive and expensive kitchen tools such as I have.

Note the flower shaped cutting board. You can't get that just anywhere. Dollar stores have to order these in advance for you!

Note the flower shaped cutting board. You can’t get that just anywhere. Dollar stores have to order these in advance for you!

3. Be sure to use top quality homemade spices such as I have.

The cream of the Mexican crop for tacos!

The cream of the Mexican crop for tacos!

4. When in doubt, just buy a can of stuff… it is usually the same as all that difficult to make homemade stuff. And really… who will ever know or be able to taste the difference?

I was almost out of my canned beans (don't they look appetizing?) so picked up another. Good Old El Paso!

I was almost out of my canned refried beans (don’t they look appetizing?) so I picked up another can of good Old El Paso! You can never have enough cans on hand.

5. Be sure to cut the ingredients so they look attractive and are the same size as I have done.

Note the expert cutting culinary skills please.

Note the expert cutting culinary skills please.

6. Wnen in doubt, you can use leftovers (who will ever know right?) or you can even take leftovers such as I have done (Indian basmati rice – almost Mexican, si?) and mix them with Mexican rice from the package. The result is delish!

I am sure Indian flavoured rice mixed with Mexican will be a great combo!

I am sure Indian flavoured rice mixed with Mexican will be a great combo!

7. Be sure to keep a clean attractive counter by using a gorgeous bowl to keep peelings in as I do.

What can I say? This bowl really has it going on. Perfect for a food blog.

What can I say? This bowl really has it going on. Perfect for a food blog.

8. And then with all great glamorous top-notch food blogs, you need to show off the final result to entice others to follow you or at a minimum, like you.

(Oops… already ate it… well, no not really… the dog did… she was the only one really in the mood for Cuatro de Mayo or to be honest, brave enough to stomach the results.)

I will try again tomorrow. I promise. Or maybe not. The dog isn’t looking that good. Maybe I should stick to a travel blog instead.

Have a great Cinco de Mayo tomorrow from Jade, Jazmin (our dog) and me. Hope yours is tastier than ours. 🙂

Q is for Quaint

I love the word, quaint. Say it out loud. It even sounds quaint.

When I travel, I am drawn to places, I consider, quaint.

In my mind, Vermont is quaint. Almost every little inch of it. Old-fashioned stores, charming bakeries, sweet B&Bs, country cottages, rushing rivers… everywhere you look, oozes quaintness. I just want to bottle it up and take it home.

After much analysis (a quick perusal of my photos) and a lot of quaint competition, I am going to declare Mexico, the capital of quaint. For those who disagree, feel free to share with your dog or cat. 🙂

You may be saying, “What does Mexico have that I don’t have?”

Mexicans know how to create a heart for their cities. Whether you call it a zocalo, a plaza, a town square, or a piazza, it is a point in the center of a town or a neighborhood that draws people to it and holds them there, captive but content.

Each zocalo is unique in Mexico.

One of my favourites is in Oaxaca. Each day as the sun dips low, people venture out to the zocalo. A park filled with benches for people to relax, to talk and simply to watch each other. Vendors sell toys for kids, men shine shoes, women sell handicrafts and always there is some fun food to eat. Families stroll, kids play and tourists, like me, take pictures and relish in the homey atmosphere of this common place where everybody and their dog loves to hang out.

What I find most refreshing is that the busiest time is in the evening. Having grown up in a city where the downtown park was empty during the day and off limits during the night due to “inappropriate activity”, it is reassuring to know there are still safe places in the world to hang out once the clock passes 6 PM.

So having concluded that Mexican towns and their zocalos win the quaint award, the strangest thing happened.

My husband was in Mexico as I was writing this post. He didn’t not know what I was writing about, yet at the same time, he sends me a picture of a cafe he thought was quaint. A word he rarely uses. This is his rendition of quaint.

The quaint cafe in Mexico  where my husband was while I was writing my quaint post in Canada.

The quaint cafe in Mexico where my husband was while I was writing my quaint post in Canada.

Although we seem to agree that Mexico is very quaint, I think we agree to disagree on his photo.

Yes, honey, the photo of the fire extinguisher in Mexico is very quaint.

You may know now why I or the girls take our travel photos.

Thanks for stopping by as The Family C travels from A to Z.

Where have you travelled that is quaint? 

Sick and Still Want To Have Fun? Get a Balcony and Backpack That Way

I had been dreading this moment from the minute we landed in Mexico City (I am a tad pessimist). That moment when backpacking quickly turns from a thrill to more of a pill (the moment you run to the medical kit and begin to search for the cure which in our words is usually cipro).

Well if you have to get sick in Mexico, Patzcuaro is the perfect place to be.

The Rules for Being Sick

1. Carefully choose place to be sick so you won’t get FOMO (fear of missing out – coined by someone much younger and more active than myself)

Sick in Rome when you only have two days? FOMO

Sick at the beach when you have only one week for a holiday and an ocean view? FOMO

But sick in Patzcuaro, a tiny peaceful beautiful colonial town but with no star attractions like Angkor Wat or the pyramids? a lot less FOMO

2. Plenty of bananas (if you are Chris) and plenty of potato chips (if you are me – seriously, I swear by this)

3. Find a distraction for when you move from the “I am seriously dying stage to the I might make it stage”

In the " I am dyiing " stage.

In the ” I am dying ” stage.

So thankfully this stage didn’t last too long. I had my backpacking future riding on this. This was the test trip to see if Chris “liked” it or at least could successfully “endure” it so I would know if we were travel compatible. A huge thing if you are obsessed like me.

Entering the “I might make it stage”, Chris needed a distraction, a good one.

Listening to me chatter wasn’t a good one; The Good Wife on TV was a good one until we admitted we didn’t have a good clue what was going on since we don’t ever watch it, so what to do?

Mr. Parking arrives. Thank you Mr. Parking. You saved our day (or a couple at least).

Mr. Parking in action all day everyday.

Mr. Parking in action all day everyday.

We had the perfect view of Mr. Parking as he “worked” right below our balcony.

Apparently it was his job to help support drivers who otherwise can not park their own cars on a street with zero traffic and well indicated parking spots. In other words, if you would like your car to stay safely parked in said spot, hire the services of Mr. Parking who will ensure that he or none of his friends will rip it off. Kind of a forced service with a forced payment fee. Hands tied behind the steering wheel, most drivers submit to Mr. Parking’s services.

So as the day progressed, Mr. Parking would get tired. He would need a drink of something (?) to keep going.

Mr. Parking takes a break to have a drink.

Mr. Parking takes a break to have a drink.

And as he takes more breaks and has more drinks, Mr. Parking’s services and tone of voice become more flamboyant, more erratic, and more “Cheryl, come here. You have to see what’s going on now!”

Being sick and watching him park, stumble, bellow, sit, drink, repeat is actually turning out to be a sick highlight of our trip.

Some things are so random, so free, so fun that when you backpack, it might be a good idea to build in some time for getting sick. 

The balcony that allowed all our fun to happen.

The balcony that allowed all our fun to happen.

Chris is much better but still watching Mr. Parking in action.

Chris feeling much better but still watching Mr. Parking in action.

What Travel Colour Are You?

Snce I was little, I have always wanted a Volkswagen Bug; not because I like cars much but because it seems to come in such fun vibrant colours. I go back and forth about which colour I prefer. I simply love most bright colours. They just make me happy.

So when I began to travel in Mexico, Central America and South America, I was stunned and excited by the wide range of colours used to decorate their homes, their businesses, their water fountains, their everything. It was like anything goes; no worrying about what the neighbours think or by-laws that reign in some parts of Canada. So since we are now onto our dreary 3rd or 4th month of winter here (think primarily white, grey, and muddy – I am making that a new colour) I am longing for some colour in my life.

As you can see, I am not scared to paint bright walls in my house.

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So which colours do you prefer? Are you more of a subtle kind of colour person?

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Or do you like this range of colours?

Or are you passionate about purple?

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Mexico, Markets and Me

The first few times I went to Mexico, I did the “usual” resort thing in Cancun and surroundings and ventured out for a few excursions to ruins and to snorkel. It was fun; it served its purpose – to relax in the sun at the beach, see a few sights close by and return home rejuvenated. Nothing wrong with that.

When I began to backpack Mexico and focus on anything that wasn’t a resort, I saw a completely different side of Mexico and frankly, one that I preferred. In fact, one that I have returned to again (and I haven’t done that a lot) and most likely, will again.

It is not the beaches, the restaurants, or the hotels that draw me in. It is the markets and the people who go.

I am a market junkie and this trait guides me everywhere I go.

No market is the same. Some sell only produce, some sell meat, some sell clothing, some sell anything in the world you can think of and some are more like restaurants for the local people. Honestly, I am not biased;  I love them all and have been known to drag my family to market after market (at least in Jade’s opinion).

It is the cheapest form of entertainment I can think of and also the best. I get a glimpse into local life and what it feels like and looks like. I imagine what it would be like to live there and go to the market as if it was my very own. Maybe..some day.. in the future..that will happen. In the meantime, I live vicariously through my photos.

The Day Chris Found Jesus

We had been backpacking around Mexico for a while focusing on its beautiful colonial cities like Puebla, Oaxaca, San Miguel de Allende, and we had just arrived in Guanajuato, We hadn’t had a great beginning as we walked and taxied from hotel to hotel trying to find a place. Strange. It was 2010 and there were not many tourists around (in fact Mexicans were coming up to thank us for travelling there) but this city was hopping with action. Frustrated we took a dive-ish type hotel hoping and praying for the best.

What we didn’t know was that Guanajuato was known for its roving parties that involved a lot of people, a lot of noise, a lot of moving and for us, a lot of NOT sleeping. Yes, I know we should travel with ear plugs but for some reason, we never have. And we never learn either.

So Chris, more competent than myself the next morning, grabs the guidebook for some ideas. My idea is to move on and escape despite Guanajuato being a beyond beautiful colonial city set in the mountains with photo ops around every corner.

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In a smallish paragraph at the bottom of the page, he found a place close to Guanajuato where we can see a Jesus statue that Mexicans cherish. Sounds enlightening which is what I need.

So off we go and for a first,  I let him lead. Struggling to find the local bus, we finally hop on one and hope that it goes remotely in the right direction. No other tourists on it.. a good sign or a bad sign? Making a few friends (as you do so easily in Mexico and every other part of Latin America) we discover that yes, we are on the right one.

When we arrive, it seems other worldly. Set high in the mountains, the statue is very impressive but more so, is the sight of all the people as they listen to services inside, sing hymns and pray. We feel like intruders; so we try to find a spot where we can observe but still feel respectful.. a fine line when travelling some times.

We wander, we smile, we take lots of photos and overall, feel pretty pleased with ourselves for finding Jesus and escaping our noisy memories of Guanajuato. On the return home, our bus breaks down, we get out, we wait, another comes, we get on, we do some alternate route to who knows where, we look around, other passengers look relaxed, so we decide to relax a little and so it goes. Finally we are back and ready for another night of roving parties… or not.

From Oaxaca to Gun Point – Not the Destination We Were Aiming For

If one C (well-travelled) meets second C (travelled only in Canada/US) the first C has to find the perfect spot to take the other C so he will fall in love with travel and then, the first C can then fall in love with the second C. So this became a complicated plan and in addition to finding the perfect spot, aeroplan also had to cooperate.

So many hours later, Mexico appeared on the radar as a possibility.

However, the first C was NOT going to resort Mexico with the second C; this had to be the “real Mexican” experience in order to find out if the second C was really into this backpacking thing.

So off we go to Mexico City where we can take a direct bus from the airport to Puebla, a pretty colonial city. So far so good. The bus is excellent and far surpasses anything we have in Canada. The scenery is amazing and to boot, we find a perfect hotel room that looks over the amazing plaza and its church. From Puebla, we move onto Oaxaca (a personal favourite of mine having spent Christmas once there) and gloriously, it hasn’t changed too much. We find another perfect little hotel that comes with a roof top that second C can look out from each and every morning he has his coffee and breakfast. Bonus! I now know roof tops are the perfect lure for him. After a few days wandering Oaxaca and chicken busing it to the surrounding towns for their daily markets, all is looking really positive. He likes it; in fact I think he loves it!

We get on our bus to head back to Mexico City as we are now going to head north.

All is going smoothly until I see a road block. OOPS! I hadn’t really explained those to second C prior to the trip; kind of forgetting to mention those travel moments when things kind of go awry.

Before I know it, the armed soldiers with guns out step onto our bus and start speaking Spanish rapidly. It appears that random passengers have the privilege of being selected for the baggage check; road side. And oh boy… we are the lucky winners of said random baggage check. In fact, anyone who looked foreign was selected however that only meant us and a couple of others. I quickly tell Chris I will look after things; taking full control of the situation; so to speak.

We get off and we are ordered to find our bags under the bus. I am freaking that if second C looks nervous, this will give them more reason to stick their guns in our sides. With the guns pointing at us, we had to open our bags so they could search them. I must admit I was very proud of second C’s fairly calm hands as he opened his pack; a new pack that he was not even familiar with on the best of days. After they checked and found we had the usual crap inside; too many clothes, umbrellas, kleenex etc. we were told to get back on the bus.

Now this is where I get extra suspicious. I am totally sure that they intend to NOT place our bags on the bus so I want to hang out there until I visibly see them returned. Soldier dudes don’t seem as pleased with my plan so they gesture for me to get back on the bus. I look at second C who still has it all together and I think, yes, he is going to be a great backpacker and I settle back into the horrible Mexican movie being blasted on the bus.