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Mexican Confetti Eggs

Mexican Confetti eggs are an Easter tradition, in Mexico of course. They are also known as cascarones. It is a fun tradition that consists of smashing confetti filled egg shells on each others heads and letting the confetti wash over you. I have so many wonderful memories of this, that I make sure to do this every year with my kids. If I remember, I start saving the egg shells in January. The kids love it!  They are easy to make and are so much more fun than painted hard-boiled eggs. Even after living in this country for 9 years I still think painted hard boiled eggs are the weirdest thing ever. What do you do with the eggs? Are they part of the Easter egg hunt? Who eats all those eggs?

How to Make Mexican Confetti Eggs

1. Tap the top of the egg with the dull side of a knife, just enough to crack it. Using your thumb and forefinger make the hole a bit bigger. Pour egg out and wash shell. Let dry at least 24 hours.

Mexican Confetti eggs are an Easter tradition, in Mexico of course. They are also known as cascarones. It is a fun tradition the kids love.2. Once shells are dry you can paint them any way you like. I find that the vinegar paint dip that works very well with hard boiled eggs does not work well with these. You can use sharpies, acrylic paints, stickers, markers, etc.

3. Let eggs dry.

4. Cut tissue paper into 1.5 inch squares

 

Mexican Confetti eggs are an Easter tradition, in Mexico of course. They are also known as cascarones. It is a fun tradition the kids love.

Mexican Confetti eggs are an Easter tradition, in Mexico of course. They are also known as cascarones. It is a fun tradition the kids love.

5. Fill the eggs with confetti.

6. Spread glue around the opening of the already filled eggs, and place the tissue paper on top.

Mexican Confetti eggs are an Easter tradition, in Mexico of course. They are also known as cascarones. It is a fun tradition the kids love.

7. Let dry.

8. On Easter, hide the eggs and let children find them. Once everyone has collected their eggs, the fun begins. Smash an egg over a family member’s head and watch the confetti pour out all over! Repeat as many times as possible. Happy Easter!

 

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Remembering Kihong Stone

When Dora first approached me about writing a piece about my mother, Kihong Stone,  I had some serious apprehensions.  Her passing in May of 2010 is still a fresh wound.   Last year Dora put up an altar of her grandfather in the Mexican tradition.  It was a little bit of an uncomfortable experience watching her set up his favorite foods, ornate sugar skulls with gold leaf, candles, marigolds, rainbows of paper skeletons and other objects connecting the dead to the living world so they can find their way back.  The last thing I wanted was an omnipresent relative in the house watching everything we said and did.  But growing up a son of a first generation immigrant, we had traditions in my house that were not considered ‘normal’.   Growing up I got to experience a culture and a world view outside of the one I was going to school and playing with friends in.  I don’t want my son to miss out on anything that was a part of who he is or where he came from.  So I embraced this bit of culture at arm’s length.  Literally, I didn’t get too close to the altar because I swear his eyes were following me.

A touching tribute to an amazing woman, Kihong Stone, on the Day of the Dead. The blending of two cultures and honoring the dead.

A touching tribute to an amazing woman, Kihong Stone, on the Day of the Dead. The blending of two cultures and honoring the dead.

This year Dora asked if she could put up an altar of my mother.  I sighed and gave in because I knew what Dora was trying to do is considered very kind, but her death seemed so final the more we spoke of her in the past tense.  There was and still is this tiny part of my mind that says she might call tomorrow with a  dumb joke or that if I fly back to Annapolis she will be there waiting to give me a hug.  Hence, I don’t talk about my mother much.  So Dora started assembling the altar; putting up the sugar skulls and the delicate paper cutouts from last year that she painstakingly saved from several ant invasions and a much-too-curious three year old.  She started to ask me what my mom’s favorite foods were, what was her favorite color, what kind of personality she had, etc.  So I started to remember the good things, memories that should and must be preserved and passed down especially since my son was only an infant when she was alive.

A touching tribute to an amazing woman, Kihong Stone, on the Day of the Dead. The blending of two cultures and honoring the dead.

A touching tribute to an amazing woman, Kihong Stone, on the Day of the Dead. The blending of two cultures and honoring the dead.

My mother was a hardworking, intelligent, tenacious, brutally honest, well-traveled person that only accepted the best.  She would take French fries back to fast food restaurants because they were cold.  My first car was brokered with me outside the dealership because she didn’t want the salesman feeding on my emotions raising the price.  My favorite story is the time my mother went to Venice and checked in to her hotel.  She didn’t like the view so she came to the front desk and said there was a ‘smell’.  The front desk agent told her the hotel was sold out and there was nothing he could do.  So my mother waited until he could do something,  she stared at this poor, unsuspecting man for two hours while he checked in guests and tried to go about a normal day at work while this 5’6” Korean woman eyed him down.  First mistake, don’t underestimate my mother; she will outsmart you, outwit you, outclass you, and out will you into submission.  But I’m using the present tense when it should be the past. She got a room with a balcony overlooking the canal.

A touching tribute to an amazing woman, Kihong Stone, on the Day of the Dead. The blending of two cultures and honoring the dead.

All of these memories came back when we started her altar and now I’m so glad Dora asked.  I created a list of items I would like on my altar for when I pass into the next world; green decorations, a bottle of tequila (Clase Azul Reposado), a bottle of burgundy (DRC Richebourg), kimchi (gaktugi, moowoo malaengyee), Dr. Pepper, my grandmother’s rosary, my cowboy boots, Dora’s Chiles en Nogada, my son’s Thomas the train, and my father’s pocket knife.  We can and should mold traditions from the past to our lives in the present.  It keeps where we came from connected to where we can and should go.  It’s going to be the strangest looking Mexican Day of the Dead altar ever but that’s the benefit of combining traditions and cultures.  After all, it’s my altar and I’m watching you.

A touching tribute to an amazing woman, Kihong Stone, on the Day of the Dead. The blending of two cultures and honoring the dead.

 

 

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Day of the Dead Festival Oceanside

There’s a Day of the Dead festival in Oceanside every year, and no, it’s not a convention of the Walking Dead or related to Halloween at all, as you might think. The Day of the Dead is a Mexican celebration of life and a mocking of death. Aztec beliefs fused with that of their conquerors have made this day one full of symbolism, both pagan and Catholic at the same time. It is shouting in death’s face: “You might have taken our loves ones, but they are not forgotten.” And so we celebrate, dance, make altars for the departed, eat, and rejoice in the triumph over death brought by the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.

There's a Day of the Dead festival in Oceanside every year, and no, it's not a convention of the Walking Dead or related to Halloween at all, as you might think. The Day of the Dead is a Mexican celebration of life and a mocking of death. Aztec beliefs fused with that of their conquerors have made this day one full of symbolism, both pagan and Catholic at the same time. It is shouting in death's face: "You might have taken our loves ones, but they are not forgotten." And so we celebrate, dance, make altars for the departed, eat, and rejoice in the triumph over death brought by the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.

 

There's a Day of the Dead festival in Oceanside every year, and no, it's not a convention of the Walking Dead or related to Halloween at all, as you might think. The Day of the Dead is a Mexican celebration of life and a mocking of death. Aztec beliefs fused with that of their conquerors have made this day one full of symbolism, both pagan and Catholic at the same time. It is shouting in death's face: "You might have taken our loves ones, but they are not forgotten." And so we celebrate, dance, make altars for the departed, eat, and rejoice in the triumph over death brought by the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.

If you are interested in learning more about the symbolism and origin of the Day of the Dead, I wrote about this in greater detail last year, you can find the article here.

 

The Mission San Luis Rey, where the festival took place, set a beautiful stage for this celebration. There was food of course, tamales, tacos, tortas, aguas frescas, pan de muerto, and many more Mexican classics. There was also face painting, in the Day of the Dead fashion, for adults and kids alike. The munchkin got to decorate his own sugar skull, while donating the proceeds to the American Cancer Society. My favorite part of the festivities was the altars, and there were so many. Some representing various Mexican states and built by whole communities, and some were built by families honoring their loved ones.

David Lozeau at The Day of the Dead Festival Oceanside

There was also a large section of artisanal paintings, sculptures, hand made jewelry,  Mexican linen dresses, and religious images. I was able to talk to an artist that I have been wanting to meet, his name is David Lozeau. His work is full of bright colors, bold lines, and death; it is a modern rendition of Jose Guadalupe Posada’s skeleton images of the early 1900’s. David is American, from the East coast, he was raised Catholic and grew up with the idea that death equaled sadness and pain. It wasn’t until he moved to CA that he discovered that death could be joyful and so it became his inspiration. Some of his depictions of skeletal figures mirror traditional Mexican art, but others are infused with pop culture and his unique view of death. He sees the world with a Day of the Dead filter and his art reflects it. He does not limit himself to paintings, thus his work can be seen on motorcycles, tattoos, murals, and instruments. David attends the Day of the Dead festival in Oceanside every year, and can also be seen at various SoCal events and festivals. Thank for taking the time to talk to me David! Here is some of his work:

After a long day, we left the festival tired and happy. This was a very joyful event filled with music, color, and flowers, but the hundreds of pictures of those gone reminded us that just like death, this celebration is bittersweet.

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Missing Ciudad Acuña

I’ve been back in Cali for a couple of days now, we’re back on our old schedule and getting on with our everyday lives. Yet, something happens every time I come back from a trip home,(Ciudad Acuña) my heart starts to ache. It aches for my family, for myself, for how life without them can be isolating and lonely. This is why I want to do one more post about Mexico before the fleeting images disappear into my memory. Wow! I didn’t mean to start this post so depressingly.

Why don’t we start over again. I just got back from spending 3 weeks with my family in Mexico, and it seemed like I could stay forever. However, I do have a husband, so we’re back in good old Orange County. Besides the inevitable sadness that results from returning from a long trip home, I also came back with an extra 3 pounds. That would be because I spent the last week touring my town a la Anthony Bourdain. We visited all our favorite food spots, ate, and took pictures. A lot of the vendors asked me quite excitedly if I was going to put the pictures up on “el facebuk“.

My parents live in a small town-city on the border with Texas. This is where I grew up. Below is a picture of the Rio Grande and the bridge that acts as a connection between Mexico and the US. As you can see, that part of the river is not very wide, but I don’t really know how difficult it would be to cross. One of the unique advantages of living in a border town is the possibility of getting a border crossing card, which allows Mexicans to visit the “other side” for recreational purposes. This means that you can go to the movies, grocery shop, eat out, or just do what you want. It’s the best of both worlds in one place.

We are missing Ciudad Acuña so much now that we are back in OC, Here is a list of places you have to visit if you happen to be there.

We are missing Ciudad Acuña so much now that we are back in OC, Here is a list of places you have to visit if you happen to be there.

We are missing Ciudad Acuña so much now that we are back in OC, Here is a list of places you have to visit if you happen to be there.

We are missing Ciudad Acuña so much now that we are back in OC, Here is a list of places you have to visit if you happen to be there.

The super nacho is from my dad’s restaurant, but it is very typical of the area. Allegedly the nacho was invented in Piedras Negras, Coahuila, which is an hour away from Acuña. As you can see they have nothing to do with the big gloppy mess most people call nachos. The chips are fried at the restaurant and each one is smeared with refried beans and topped with cheddar cheese. They’re place under the broiler in order to melt the cheese, and afterwards they’re topped with guacamole. In the center is grilled skirt steak.

We are missing Ciudad Acuña so much now that we are back in OC, Here is a list of places you have to visit if you happen to be there.

Aguas con Chabelo sells refreshing fruit drinks, usually made with water, sugar, and your fruit of choice. That particular day they had lime, melon, and pineapple available.

We are missing Ciudad Acuña so much now that we are back in OC, Here is a list of places you have to visit if you happen to be there.

Lake Amistad is known as one of the best bass fishing destinations in the US. The lake extends across the border, so there is an American and Mexican side. We spent the day on the Mexican side.

We are missing Ciudad Acuña so much now that we are back in OC, Here is a list of places you have to visit if you happen to be there.

We had lunch at the Plaza Tlaloc restaurant, where we chose our own fish from the catch of the day. There was only bass and catfish left, so we ordered both. They only serve it one way, fried. It is seasoned with a spice mix, served on a bed of lettuce, and topped with french fries.

Just so you know, Anthony Bourdain did happen to visit my town on Season 2 of No Reservations, episode 4. Sadly he only visits the Corona Club, where the movie El Mariachi and Desperado were filmed. He doesn’t even go to the lake or eat anywhere for that matter. Anyway, I know it may not seem like it, but I am glad to back.

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Three Kings Day (Dia de Reyes)

Today is the last day of Christmas. Also known as the feast of the Epiphany, Three Kings Day or Dia de Reyes. In Mexico, as I had mentioned before, this means that children receive gifts from the Reyes Magos (Magi) instead of Santa. Traditionally the children leave a note for the Magi in their shoes, the night before, and place them under the Christmas tree or outside. The Magi respond by bringing them gifts the following morning, just as they brought gifts to the Christ child.

Living on the border, our traditions are a mixture of Mexican and American customs. This being said, as a child Santa brought most of our gifts on Christmas, and the Reyes Magos filled our stockings with treats and small toys on Jan 6th.

Also on this day, an anise and orange scented dough is baked in the form of a crown, and topped with dried and candied fruits to make the Rosca de Reyes( King Cake). The fruit is meant to represent the crown´s jewels, and inside the bread is hidden a small figurine of baby Jesus. The lucky person to find baby Jesus in their piece of bread is designated to bring tamales on  Feb. 2nd to the Feast of the Candelaria, but that´s another story.

The rosca is usually served with hot chocolate and eaten at any time of the day or all day! One of the candied fruits used to top the rosca is called acitrón. Acitrón is made from a species of cactus, also know as biznaga, only found in Mexico. The candy is made by extracting the pulp from the cacti, cutting it into blocks, and cooking it in a simple syrup. The result is an opaque sugary block, firm to the touch, but soft and juicy on the inside. It is commercially sold in red and green tinted blocks or cut into strips. Acitrón is widely used in Mexican Cuisine, thus depleting the population of the cacti used to make this candy. Why am I telling you this?? I don´t think many people know this, especially Mexicans. So if you do eat a rosca today, please eat the acitrón and enjoy what surely is a true jewel of Mexican Gastronomy.

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The Beauty of Mexico

I can’t seem to find the right words or pictures to share. I want to show you the beauty of Mexico, but I’m not talking about the beautiful Mexican resorts, beach or even the natural resources of Oaxaca. I’m talking about the raw beauty of a small border town, so different from the manicured lawns and pristine streets of Orange County.

I want to show you the beauty of Mexico, but I'm not talking about the beautiful resorts, beaches or natural resources. The real beauty

I want to show you the beauty of Mexico, but I'm not talking about the beautiful resorts, beaches or natural resources. The real beauty

I want to show you the beauty of Mexico, but I'm not talking about the beautiful resorts, beaches or natural resources. The real beauty

I want to show you the beauty of Mexico, but I'm not talking about the beautiful resorts, beaches or natural resources. The real beauty

I want to show you the beauty of Mexico, but I'm not talking about the beautiful resorts, beaches or natural resources. The real beauty

I’ve been here for about a week now and I’ve been enjoying it so much, but somehow it´s always bittersweet. I delight in the fact that my parents have lived in the same house for over thirty years, so I can literally come home. I love that I can eat my favorite foods at our family restaurant, and that there´s people around me who actually want to take care of the munchkin for a little while. Oh and that he actually has someone to play with!

I want to show you the beauty of Mexico, but I'm not talking about the beautiful resorts, beaches or natural resources. The real beauty

I want to show you the beauty of Mexico, but I'm not talking about the beautiful resorts, beaches or natural resources. The real beauty

I want to show you the beauty of Mexico, but I'm not talking about the beautiful resorts, beaches or natural resources. The real beauty

I want to show you the beauty of Mexico, but I'm not talking about the beautiful resorts, beaches or natural resources. The real beauty

I want to show you the beauty of Mexico, but I'm not talking about the beautiful resorts, beaches or natural resources. The real beauty

At the same time ever since this “drug war” started, Acuña has gone from one of the fastest growing cities in Mexico to almost a ghost town. Businesses are closing because Americans have stopped crossing the border to eat and drink, and the fees imposed by the cartels are too large. In the past two years there has been an increase in poverty in Mexico, with the numbers climbing to 46.2% of the entire population. This means that there´s practically no middle class, just disgustingly rich, poor and extremely poor. All of these things remind me why many Mexicans have chosen to leave their home country legally or illegally.

I want to show you the beauty of Mexico, but I'm not talking about the beautiful resorts, beaches or natural resources. The real beauty

I want to show you the beauty of Mexico, but I'm not talking about the beautiful resorts, beaches or natural resources. The real beauty

I guess what I should be telling you are the little details that make Mexico unique. For example, at the movies we don´t pour butter on our popcorn, there´s hot sauce readily available in a dispenser. Also, Mexicans are not afraid of color and it shows in store displays, houses, and even the supermarket. The food here is so good, usually not processed, and full flavor. Honestly, I think blandness doesn´t exist here. One of the best features of Mexico are the people, the people are warm,  honest, joyful, well most of them are. They certainly know how to throw a party and enjoy one, but most of all they know how to make the best out of what they have.

I want to show you the beauty of Mexico, but I'm not talking about the beautiful resorts, beaches or natural resources. The real beauty

I want to show you the beauty of Mexico, but I'm not talking about the beautiful resorts, beaches or natural resources. The real beauty

I want to show you the beauty of Mexico, but I'm not talking about the beautiful resorts, beaches or natural resources. The real beauty

I will be here for two more weeks, so there will be more to tell. In the mean time have a Happy New Year!

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Mexican Christmas Traditions

One of the greatest things about Christmas is tradition, making new ones and reliving old ones. Traditions are a simple way of transmitting our values and our culture, making us part of history, thus becoming the glue between the past and the present. Mexican culture has many Christmas traditions, they vary from family to family and region to region, but some of them transcend all differences and have been part of the culture for centuries.

Mexican Christmas Traditions

Las Posadas:

Are part of a Roman Catholic tradition called a Novena, which in this case consists of 9 days of prayer prior to Christmas in order to obtain special graces. The passing of time and the jovial nature of the Mexican culture has transformed this tradition into 9 days of partying. Most posadas include pedir posada (reenacting the journey of Mary and Joseph trying to find a place in the Inn through song), a pastorela, the breaking of the piñata, and of course a small feast.

Mexican Christmas traditions are rich, varied, and full of symbolisms. They are passed on from generation to generation.

 

 

Las Pastorelas

Are plays or artistic representations of the story of baby Jesus. They take place in the days before Christmas, at schools, churches, or outdoor settings. They were first introduced by the Spanish missionaries in the 1500’s as a means of teaching the faith and the bible to the Indians.

The basic plot of a pastorela consists of several shepherds that are on their way to adore baby Jesus, but are discouraged by Lucifer himself. All of Lucifer’s attempts to stop the shepherds from reaching their destination fail, and they are safely able to deliver their offerings to the Christ child. Over the years the plays have been adapted to modern culture, and are funny, full of song, dance, and creative costumes. (The town of Tepotzotlan, Edo. de Mexico is famous for its pastorelas.)

Mexican Christmas traditions are rich, varied, and full of symbolisms. They are passed on from generation to generation.

La Piñata:

Is usually in the shape of a star with seven peaks, representing the 7 deadly sins. The person with the stick represents the faith, and the candy represents the temptation of evil. Pretty deep stuff! Even though the religious significance continues to get watered down through the years, the kids really enjoy it and some grown ups do too.

 

Mexican Christmas traditions are rich, varied, and full of symbolisms. They are passed on from generation to generation.

 

Nacimientos (Nativities):

Nativities were also introduced by the Spanish missionaries, but their origin can be traced back to Italy around 1223, where St. Francis of Assisi recreated the nativity with people, animals, and a little house made of straw. The live nativity tradition caught on in Europe and later evolved into figurines in people’s homes. When the nativity was adapted by the indigenous people of Mexico, it transformed into a scene of vivid color, with dark skinned characters made with materials such as glass, silver, lead, wood, or wax.

Today, nativity scenes are rarely historically accurate. They are decorated with green shrubbery, cactus, and maguey; they can have figurines like the mail man, milk man, the baker, and even the devil; and the size of baby Jesus can sometimes border on the ridiculous. Baby Jesus can almost be as large as the Mary and Joseph figurines or very, very tiny.

 

Mexican Christmas traditions are rich, varied, and full of symbolisms. They are passed on from generation to generation.

Noche Buena (Christmas Eve):

Christmas dinner in Mexico is usually celebrated on Christmas Eve, instead of Christmas day. Some families attend midnight mass, and some don’t. It is on this night when a large figurine of baby Jesus is laid down to rest in the manger and everyone adores and celebrates his birth. The dinner differs from region to region, but in our case we have turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, tamales, pozole, menudo, ponche, and beer or wine. Dessert would be buñuelos or my Tia Laura’s famous frozen cheesecake.

Mexican Christmas traditions are rich, varied, and full of symbolisms. They are passed on from generation to generation.

Mexican Christmas traditions are rich, varied, and full of symbolisms. They are passed on from generation to generation.

 

Fireworks:

Fireworks came to Mexico in the 19th century and were used (and still are) for ceremony and religious purposes. For Christmas, churches will light them after midnight mass or families set them off in their back yards to celebrate the birth of Christ.

Dia de Reyes (The Feast of the Epiphany):

Santa is becoming more popular in Mexico, especially in the border towns, but most kids get their gifts in January 6th, on the feast of the Epiphany. Traditionally the children leave a note for the Magi in their shoes, the night before, and place them under the Christmas tree or outside. The Magi respond by bringing them gifts the following morning, just as they brought gifts to the Christ child.

The Feast of the Epiphany is also commemorated with a Rosca de Reyes, an orange and anise scented king cake topped with dried and candied fruit. The fruit is meant to represent the crown´s jewels, and inside the bread is hidden a small figurine of baby Jesus. The lucky person to find baby Jesus in their piece of bread is designated to bring tamales on Feb. 2nd to the Feast of the Candelaria, but that´s another story.

Mexican Christmas traditions are rich, varied, and full of symbolisms. They are passed on from generation to generation.

Rosca de reyes mexicana|Source=commons.wikipedia|Author=Itzcuauhtli |Date=2009 |

Traditional Christmas Foods:

Tamales – Consist of seasoned corn dough (masa) filled with savory or sweet fillings, and wrapped in a corn husk or banana leaf and steamed. Their origin dates back to prehispanic times. The Aztecs, Mayans, Olmecas, and Toltecas prepared them for feasts and as a portable food.

Today they are still used in celebrations, such as Christmas. They are the ultimate comfort food for us Mexicans, well at least for me.
There are many variations, but in Coahuila, the state where I’m from, tamales are small, filled with shredded meat, seasoned with a salsa made with dried chiles, and wrapped in a corn husk.

Champurrado: Warm chocolate beverage thickened with corn flour or masa. It can also be flavored with anise, cinnamon, and vanilla. The best part of this drink is that it is made with Mexican chocolate. Mexican chocolate is basically cacao beans ground with sugar and cinnamon, this gives the champurrado a unique flavor that differs from American hot chocolate.

Ponche: Warm fruit punch containing pear, thornapple, sugar cane, guava, prunes, tamarind, orange peel, clove, and cinnamon.

Menudo: Beef tripe soup, flavored with a dried chile and garlic mixture, and served with radishes, cabbage, tostadas, lime juice oregano, and cilantro.

Pozole: Also a pre-Hispanic dish, which consists of shredded beef, hominy, a dried chile and garlic mixture, and served with cabbage, limes, tostadas, radish, cilantro, oregano, and onion.

Ensalada de Noche Buena: Christmas Eve salad made with beets, orange segments, peanuts, pomegranate, orange juice, and sugar.

Bacalao a la Vizcaina: Salt cod served in a tomato, garlic, red pepper, and olive sauce.

Buñuelos: Orange scented fritters dusted with cinnamon sugar or drizzled with a piloncillo syrup.

All these traditions are part of Mexico’s rich culture. What are some some of your favorite Christmas traditions or foods?

 

Sources:

Christmas in Mexico, World Book Encyclopedia, 1976