Family, Inspiration, Latino culture, Strong Women, Wisdom, Writing

Top 5 Posts of 2015 – An Authentic Cultural Experience

Top 5 #blog posts of 2015, blog posts
Happy New Year 2015

 

Are you excited for what’s ahead in 2016? I am.

The year 2015 had its up’s and downs. I think of the ‘downs’ as learning opportunities and the ‘up’s’ as blessings.

WordPress and Grammarly sent me year-end reports which reminded me of my writing during the past year. Their graphic reports were very cool with stats and all that, but I’m not going to post the whole thing.

Let’s just say my blog posts surpassed my 2014 stats in views and followers, a plus in my book.

Surprisingly, all of the most read posts had to do with aspects of my identity: Mexican culture, food, drink, home remedies, and the term “Chingona.” Interesting.

WordPress said,

If your blog was a concert at Sydney Opera House it would take 14 sold-out performances for that many people to see…representing 106 countries...with most referring traffic from Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Buzzfeed…

The referring traffic was a big surprise and means I need to keep up with my 20 Pinterest boards.

As for Grammarly, which corrects your grammar, I still hold the title of Comma Queen meaning I put commas everywhere but the right places far too often.

Now on to the “Top 5 Posts”:

  1. Five Important Ingredients for Tamales : The making of pre-Christmas tamales is a tradition where our family gets together to work towards a common goal, namely to make dozens of tamales for a communal feast. By the time New Year’s Day rolls around we are ‘tamaled’ out. Red tamales are filled with roasted pork simmered in red chile sauce and the ‘green’ ones are filled with jack cheese, strips of California green chile, and homemade salsa.
Christmas food, tamales, red chile tamales, green chile tamales, Mexican tamales
Red and Green Tamales. http://www.alvaradofrazier.com

2. The Importance of Cultural Traditions: the title says it all. If we lose our culture we lose part of ourselves.

3. How to Be a Chingona in Ten Easy Steps: The steps are according to the wisdom of Sandra Cisneros, one of my favorite writers. We can all aspire to be chingonas. I love this image of Sandra Cisneros profile as an Adelita, a soldier in the Mexican Revolution. An Adelita is symbolic of the woman warrior.

quote on being a Chingona by Sandra CIsneros, woman, inspirational quote, women quote
Chingona- Sandra Cisneros quote. Quotesgram.com

4. Champurrado-Mexican Comfort Drink: this is a drink I make every Christmas since my mother ‘retired,’ from making a similar drink ten years ago. When she stopped making the drink, due to her limited eyesight, I was bestowed with carrying on a tradition. I make a vegan version for my sons and their friends.

5. Latino Home Remedies for a Cold: Back in the day, the standard issue for Mexican households was Vicks VaporRub, 7 Up, honey, Manzanilla (Chamomile) tea for cramps, Yerba Buena (Mint) tea for stomach aches, and caldo de pollo (homemade chicken soup) for flu or colds.

So there you have it, the top five posts in 2015.

I hope 2016 is a blessing to all of you and yours. Peace, love, and joy.

 

Family, Travel

My Town at Christmas

Oxnard_XmasTreeLane

My hometown is at sea level. We don’t get snow. Ever. Okay, I heard we had some back in 1962, but someone might have mistaken it for bits of hail.

For us, Oxnardians, the winter season arrives when Christmas Tree Lane in the Historic District opens, where palm trees lit in sparking white lights tower alongside huge sycamore’s, and Craftsman style houses sit next to Spanish Revivals.

Our annual writer’s group party took place at the home of our friend, Florencia, who co-founded the group ten years ago. Interestingly, she also founded the first dance team for her high school back in 1989. Must be why we like to party at our writing retreats.

The Hostess Home
The Hostess Home

The archway to her home had mistletoe conspicuously hung, not that my date noticed, until we left, when it hung so low it hit his head and ricocheted off my cheek.

After the scrumptious posole, tamales, bolillos and chocolate champurrado, all twenty some of us, plus kids, headed out the door and walked the few blocks of Christmas Tree Lane.

Charlie Brown Christmas -Oxnard, alvaradofrazier.com

Lucky for the crowd, the sidewalks in the historic district are wide enough to allow for strollers, dawdling toddlers, and hand holding couples. But not all at the same time.

Christmas Tree Lane, Oxnard Historic District
Christmas Tree Lane, Oxnard Historic District

And the town’s historic plaza:

Oxnard Pagoda dressed for Christmas
Oxnard Pagoda dressed for Christmas

Now, we’re off to enjoy some ‘real’ winter weather and snow in Denver, Colorado.

I’d like to share with you a travel prayer, sent to me by my mistletoe ducking boy friend:

May the Lord accompany you, that no evil befall you,

no accident overtake you and no calamity come near you,

In Jesus’ name, Amen.

 

Have a beautiful Christmas.

Family, Latino culture, Latino Family Traditions, Mexican Cooking, Mexican Holiday food

Christmas Desserts-Mexican/Chicano Style

Mexican champurrado, flickr.com
Mexican champurrado, flickr.com

My friend, Evelyn Holingue, invited me to share my traditional Christmas dessert recipes. She’s written about Buche de Noel, a gorgeous French chocolate yule cake with chocolate whipped topping on her blog. Think of this as a virtual cookie exchange from different cultural backgrounds.

The weather outside is cold/rainy and alternately cold/sunny. And when I say ‘cold,’ I mean in the 40’s-50’s, which is lukewarm to those in the Mid-West and East Coast, but which is perfect Southern California December weather. Perfect for an evening of Mexican Christmas treats.

Besides the yummy tamales, of every size and filling, which we make during Christmas, we also enjoy making traditional desserts: Champurrado and Buñuelos.

Now the reason I say these Christmas desserts are Mexican/Chicano style is because they veer from the traditional recipes found in Mexico.

A bit of historical context: My family ranges from first to fourth generation Mexican descent, with smatterings of Irish, Scottish and Native American ancestry. But because all of us parents, the second gen’s, grew up in the 70’s, we identify as Chicano. As working mothers we often substituted ingredients or improvised the recipes.

FIrst, the hot beverage. Champurrado (cham-poo-rah-doh) is a Mexican hot chocolate drink married with an atole, a traditional masa-based Mexican drink. It is not Mexican hot chocolate- two separate beverages.

Masa harina is the flour used for making corn tortillas and can also be used to thicken this rich, chocolate drink. I use Maizena or corn starch. This thick drink is made with piloncillo (raw sugar cone), milk, Mexican chocolate like the Abuelita brand and whole cinnamon sticks. Sometimes anise star or vanilla bean is used.

Combine all ingredients into large saucepan, stir until chocolate, sugar are well blended.

8 cups whole milk*

2 disks (3.25 oz)Mexican chocolate

3 oz piloncillo cone

1/8 teaspoon ground anise seeds or one star anise

4 whole cinnamon sticks

Add:

3-5 tablespoons of Maizena stirred into 1/2 cup of warm water (this is for the thickness), add to hot mixture, use a whisk or molinillo (kids love this part) to stir frequently until it boils. Reduce heat and cook for 10-15 minutes, stirring frequently.

Substitutions:
I use almond milk, but you can use evaporated or soy milk. Experiment with the thickness of the drink by using less or more of Maizena. For the deep chocolate factor add two disks.This also tastes very good when you use a vanilla bean instead of star anise.

The Real Deal Buñuelos-flickr.com
                                                             The Real Deal Buñuelos-flickr.com

The ‘real deal’ buñuelos are made with yeast. They look like the mass produced Mexican cookie above, but taste like donuts.  I made these once-very time intensive but worth the time.

Buñuelos of my youth consisted of making masa for tortillas, rolling out a tortilla, and frying it in hot lard until golden brown-about a minute on each side. On one plate, lined with paper towels, you set it to drain. On a second plate you mix 1/2 cup of sugar and 1 tablespoon of cinnamon (I like cinnamon). Sprinkle the tortilla with the sugar mix.

You could use canola or coconut oil to fry the tortillas. A drizzle of agave syrup and cinnamon on top makes a pretty dessert.

Tortilla Buñuelos-flickr.com
                                                                       Tortilla Buñuelos-flickr.com

You can use those uncooked ‘handmade’ tortillas from Costco and fry them, drain, and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. Or if you’re really in a hurry, take a ready made tortilla, fry, and dust with the cinnamon powdered sugar. For kids, you can cut tortillas into shapes and fry. Using ready cooked tortillas results in a cinnamon crisp texture.

Kid style buñuelos-flickr.com
Kid style buñuelos-flickr.com

Whichever recipe you use for the buñuelos, the fun part is in the process. Making these is easily a two person affair (parent/child; spouse; friend) where you can spend time creating, talking, and sharing.

And isn’t that what holidays are about?

Peace to you and yours.

Books, Family

20 Ways to Celebrate Before Christmas

 

Christmas Hearts by Tiraz, Flickr.com
Christmas Hearts by Tiraz, Flickr.com

We haven’t put up one Christmas bulb or decoration yet, but I am thinking of how to make Christmas more special this year.

When I say special, I mean remembering that “Christ,” is in the word “Christmas.”

The wheels began turning last night when I wandered through department stores looking for Christmas cards that ‘spoke’ to me. And I found them too, at Hallmark.

There are 20 days to Christmas and they’ll blur by if we forget to take the time to slow down and enjoy the hours and days of the holiday season.

This list is just a beginning. Perhaps you can share your ideas in the comments.

How to spend the remaining 20 days to Christmas:

 

1-Carry on a tradition and share. Mine is to make tamales and champurrado.

2-Hug more and not just your spouse or significant other. Smile too.

3-Spend time with your parents or anyone over 70 that has a story to tell you about a Christmas memory.

4-Scent your home with the inviting fragrance of cinnamon, pine, or sugar cookies. I like to stick cloves in oranges.

6-Decorate your home or someone else’s with a living plant. I found this colorful gem at Lowe’s.

 Christmas Cactus alvaradofrazier.com

Christmas Cactus alvaradofrazier.com

7-Send out Christmas cards with a handwritten inspirational quote.

8-Forgive. Apologize. Try to understand.  

9-Read a Christmas book to your own or someone else’s children. No kids? Read to yourself, aloud. One of my favorites is Olive the Other Reindeer.

10-Wear something ‘Christmasy,’ even if it’s that not so pretty holiday sweater someone gave you. 

11-Buy or make a new holiday ornament for someone else.

12-Share a holiday drink with someone: Peppermint Mocha, mulled wine, champurrado.

13-Sing along to holiday songs, wherever you may be.

14-Try a new holiday food from a different culture: France, Spain, Germany, Italy…

15-Get out in nature. Taste falling snow. If you’re in Southern California, like me, find yourself some shaved ice or a raspada as we call them in Spanish. This year I’ll be in Denver for Christmas where I’m sure I’ll find snow.

16-Bake a holiday sweet that you’ve never baked before and share.

17-Visit a church or place of worship for their holiday message, choir, or play.

18-Say “I love you,” “I appreciate you,” “Thank you,” twice as often.

19-Donate coats, sweaters, gloves to those in need. Drop your coins into the Salvation Army kettle. Contribute to Toys for Tots or similar program.

20-Pray and work for peace.

Enjoy your weekend!