Friday, February 5, 2016

THE JERK: (or why my balcony smells like a litter box)

This is a handsome and friendly looking cat who lounges on a neighboring roof top, that's why I tried to entice him by placing little saucers of cream and of local sausage on my balcony wall.  So much tastier than a hummingbird!

 My reward was a total rejection of the offerings (the congealed cream was not easy to remove, thank you very much).  And not only just a rejection:  he's sprayed my wall and discarded potting soil to make room for his toilet.

SeƱor Fluffy might just find some very "special" sausage next time!

Thursday, February 4, 2016 art class

I've been frustrated in finding an art class that works for me on this trip.   I prefer taking something  taught by a Mexican;  why this is hard to find is puzzling, but in any case,  here I am in Oscar's class.
I'm happy because it's just a 3 minute walk from home and most of the students are Mexican and the structure is very flexible.  It does give me a defined framework in which to create.

I started yesterday and took two small round canvas supports, just about 5" in diameter.  I also took three figs and a bowl from my place.  Here's what I started yesterday and finished today.  I'm also working on a little garlic/shallot piece on the second "tondo".

Sunday, January 31, 2016

A Quiet Morning

A lovely way to spend a quiet morning:  Seddon and I took our watercolors to Casa del Diezmo,  a small B and B with a lush and peaceful garden courtyard.  We ordered coffee and banana cake and settled at a table at the back and painted and talked.  Seddon produced some sweet little paintings.
(it was not my best day for creating: notice I'm not posting my work!)

Saturday, January 30, 2016


I spent one fascinating day visiting three haciendas, each one in a different state of restoration.
The three are all within 2 hrs of San Miguel and were originally Spanish land grants to conquistadors and crown officials in the 16th and 17th centuries.  At the beginning  they included huge tracts of land, and were profit making economic enterprises.   They were like the feudal systems where the labor force (the indigenous people) would work the land in exchange for safety.  During the Mexican Revolution many were burned and stripped of the valuable wood, metal, decorations, etc.  With agrarian reform  the lands were broken up and given to the people.    Today the buildings sit on land which is very much reduced in size, and are in various states of restoration (or decay).

Here's what we visited:    HACIENDA LAS TRANCAS which has been restored almost completely by an American family who has transformed it into a luxury hotel and wedding destination.


Me, Seddon and Lili


Dating from the 16th century La Quemada was one of the richest haciendas in the state, with cattle breeding as its mainstay.  The present owners are descendants of the 19th century owner and have decided to return to the property and restore it as their private residence. They have lived here for 9 years with their adult children and young grandchildren.  They make a very nice mezcal which we were invited to sample (and buy!).  It was interesting to see a restoration mid-way with many living areas finished and others still being worked on.

The original size of this hacienda was staggering.  Its territory reached from Durango to the outskirts of Mexico City and took 7 days in a carriage to traverse.
 The hacienda had three building campaigns, the most recent in the 19th century.  All of it is in an advanced state of decay.  It is privately owned and not open to the public.  For good reason.  We were constantly being monitored to walk close to the walls on the second floor;  treading toward the middle of the room could easily mean plummeting down 20ft. to the ground floor!  Unbelievable.  Although much of the lavish decoration has been stripped, many rooms still retain damaged wall coverings and wall paintings.  There is even one bedroom that has shreds of the baldachin which hung over the bed swaying in the breeze.

 Sign at the front stating it is  private property and entering is strictly prohibited!
 the nineteenth century entrance

 Me, Lili and Seddon
Room after room after room after room of...............

 Fireplace stripped of it's stone mantel and chimney

Shreds of the baldachin hanging from the ceiling

 notice the gold leaf motifs on the upper portion

 The kitchen  (I imagine)
 On the roof: that's Clare, my painting conservator friend from London on the left!

View of the grinding area of the mezcaleria with the main building and granaries in the background
The cone-shaped nineteenth century granaries and the arch vaulted originals next to them

Friday, January 22, 2016

Mujeres en Cambio: A lunch in the campo

 Mujeres en Cambio is a local non-profit that provides scholarships for women in a small community in the campo outside of San Miguel.   It was their anniversary (can't remember how long they've been doing this) and they hosted a luncheon cooked by the women of the community.  It began with boarding a tin-can of a bus, which didn't bother me, but unfortunately 30 women in a tin-can produced an intolerable cacophony.  It was not helped by the heavily scented air freshener that saturated the already heady environment! Thought I was gonna die!
 Phew!  Fresh air, the sound of rustling mesquite in the breeze.

 A sample of the hooked items the women design and make

 The talented and beautiful cooks

Hands down the best Mexican food I have ever eaten.  And I've eaten lots.
My plate included: a chicken tamale, a cheese chile relleno, a cheese taco,
mole, pork in red chile, nopalitos, rice, stewed chicken, quacamole, and a fried mashed potato patty (under all the rest)
They had chocolate and carrot cake for dessert.
No dinner for me last night, needless to say.