My mother is threatening to go visit my grandmother.
It’s a threat because my grandmother lives in Mexico. Specifically, she lives in the northern part of Mexico, which is now infamous for violence and death. “It’s fine in the town,” my abuelita tells me. She believes that, she has to, otherwise she couldn’t stay there. But I know that that’s not quite true.
It’s been three years since the deaths of my uncles. It was an experience that has never faded. That gut-wrenching fear that I felt making my way out of Mexico… I will never forget that. It changed me.
My grandmother lives in a war zone. It’s an undeclared war, but the casualties are rising. I don’t want to lose any more family members to the violence.
My mother goes to visit my grandmother and we all hold our breath. While she’s in Houston I can go weeks without speaking to her, but when she’s in Mexico I call her every day. I only talk to her for a few minutes, but all I want is to hear her voice. All I want is to know that she’s okay.
And I hope and I pray and I tell myself that she will be fine. And I make myself believe it.
I don’t want her to go. The little girl inside me, the one who look for her mommy when she’s hurt, she wants to yell and throw a tantrum. “Don’t go! Don’t go!” I want to tell her.
But I am an adult. She has to go see to the health and wellbeing of her mother. If she lived there, I would go to visit her to make sure she was okay.
When I was little, my bed was a mattress on the floor.
We lived in a duplex on the East Side of Houston, in an area that even now is considered dubious (though it’s rapidly gentrifying because of the rail line under construction). Though we didn’t consider ourselves to be poor, we didn’t have money for eating out or other “luxuries” like that.
My Dad worked in construction. Most of my life I remember he always tried to improve our financial situation. Sometimes that meant working two jobs. Sometimes that meant that he ran small projects on the side, like running a stall at a flea market. Eventually that meant opening his own business and throwing caution to the wind that way. That was when I learned a new word: subcontractor.
Before I was even double digits in age I was already helping out by separating bills into category piles so she could take them to the bookkeeper. As I got older, my “assistant” duties got more involved (at one point I was human resources and payroll).
I tell you this so you can get an idea of one end of the spectrum in my life. So that when I say that I bought my niece a bracelet at Tiffany’s for last year’s birthday, or that my best friend’s child has a personal shopper, or that I paid $30 for a small bag of organic pine nuts… so you can understand what the 180 degrees looks like for me.
But I’m not done. I keep reminding myself that I’m not done.
I love love love frenc fries. I make them at home, but they never come out crispy enough. No more. According to this article by Lifehacker, the trick to making crispy french fries is to cook them at a low temperature until they are fully cooked. Then you remove them from heat, increase the temperature of the oil and fry them until golden brown. In addition, the article notes some additional tips to make sure you have amazing results.
If you want to buy some, though, you need to go to Boheme and try the Vietnamese Fries. When both CultureMap and Houstonia Magazine recommend a dish, you know it’s going to go on my must-eat list. In this case what’s recommended is the Vietnamese Fries from Boheme Cafe & Wine Bar. Culturemap describes them as follows: “Sweet and pungent Hoisin sauce, spicy Sriracha, creamy aioli, fresh cilantro leaves and roasted peanuts.” How can you resist?
Fruit Salad, with spice
I grew up eating food from street vendors: tacos, tortas, elote en vaso, and fruit cups. So, when I came across this recipe for Spicy Mexican Fruit Salad on Babble, I knew I had to share it. The video is from Presley’s Pantry; I’ve spotlighted recipes from that blog before. I enjoy her recipes, but I love her videos.
One of the great things about living in Houston is that I can indulge in many different types of food pretty much whenever I want. I love Mediterranean food, mainly Greek. Tabouleh is one of those things I try to order as often as I can. I used to call it “cilantro salad” even though, technically, it’s not made with cilantro — it’s made with parsley. And I know this even though I’d never made it myself. This recipe in Running to the Kitchen has a variation of Tabouleh made with strawberries and walnuts. And now I want to know what that tastes like. If you try it out, let me know.
In case I forgot to mention this: Juan and Katie are getting married. Looks like they’re going to pick a date in the height of Summer: sometime late July or early August.
This is a good thing. He proposed more than a year ago. We knew that when he made it back home he was going to be getting married soon. And Katie has been dieting (we guess, to look good in the dress).
Having said all of that, I know that there are going to be skirmishes. In fact, they’ve already begun.
Juan isn’t going to have a religious ceremony. I don’t merely mean that he’s not having a Catholic wedding, which he’s not. What I mean is that he’s not having a religious ceremony at all. He and Katie are planning to just go to the Justice of the Peace (alone) then have a reception (with guests).
My mother isn’t pleased. Arianna isn’t pleased. Linda is remaining quiet. And I think he should just do whatever he wants. (I’m not sure I’m going to voice that opinion too loudly, especially near my mother.)
But that’s just the first of many many discussions that will erupt. This is Katie’s wedding, and her Mom’s. I’m wondering how my mother will react to the fact that her role in this wedding is going to be minimal (as my sisters’ mothers-in-laws were).
I had to work Saturday, which isn’t that bad. But it means that I got caught in the deluge Saturday late afternoon. I had to abandon the freeway into a neighborhood I didn’t know, and kept having to take detours due to high water. On more than one occasion I pulled over into a parking lot and thought seriously about waiting out the storm, even if it meant spending the night in my car. After careful consideration I decided to take a risk and drive the last half of the way home… and I made it. Hours of travel in water-hazard roads, but I made it in one piece.
Sunday, when we were having an impromptu family meeting about buying a block of tickets to the Blue Man Group performances in June, I found out that my business account was overdrawn. I was checking my bank accounts to make sure I had enough in my “spending account” to cover the cost of the tickets when I saw that the business account was literally in the red. Some research showed that a recent “sponsored” conference trip ended up with the hotel charged to my account. I’d given them my card for incidentals (of which there weren’t any). This was a few weeks ago. Apparently the sponsor didn’t include my room in the block they paid for when settling up. So, weeks later, I got charged for a week’s stay. Yikes! It’s been resolved and the hotel is supposed to be refunding me my money within 3-5 business days, but the overdrafts have happened.
Late Sunday I found out that the cooling system at the house needs repairs. Looks like my half of the bill is going to come to $350.
Things could have been worse. I could have been stuck somewhere overnight, or flooded out my truck. The sponsor or hotel could have refused to resolve the issue. The cooling system repairs could have been more…
But the cumulative effect was that I started the week feeling wrung out and exhausted. How was your weekend?