Spring is officially here!!!!

Yes, to confirm that all the Jacaranda trees are in full bloom with gorgeous purple flowers. They are all over SMA just in time to start Semana Santa, very important time for all the catholics here in Mexico. The view is just breathtaking, see for yourself.

The monarc butterflies are waking up to start their long journey up North pretty soon. Hummingbird nests are popping up here and there but due to their size visible only to the most observant.

Our tree, that was once a Christmas Tree got transformed to welcome new season. It became a home for owels that were made of… Yes, you guessed it, from toilet paper rolls.

With help from my beautiful children, we painted the rolls different colors, then we shaped the roll and used black marker to draw the features of these gorgeus birds. Very easy, cute and fun even for the youngest ones. The shape is also great to make kitties, but we do not want any of them in our tree, especially with the eggs just about to hatch:-)

This is a great recyclable project because all you need is a tree branch, old paint bucket and some paint. This could easily be a permanent exposition in your house or a daycare, the docorations would just be changed to reflect changing seasons. Let me know what you think:-)

 

Teotihuacan, the Birthplace of the Gods

Before we set off for another adventure, I believe we need to catch up a bit on our recent whereabouts. Remember the trip around Central Mexico we took at the turn of the year? Well, that didn’t finish in Cholula. After staying couple days in Puebla, the next morning we visited Cholula, the biggest pyramid in the World. It was quite impressive, but frankly not even remotely as impressive as the tourists “must see” attraction near Mexico City – the old Aztec city of Teotihuacan.

Teotihuacan, is  just 30 miles (48 km) northeast of Mexico City, which makes it a perfect day trip destination for side trips from the country’s capital. The main attraction are of course the pyramids, which are the largest structures built in the pre-Columbian Americas. Apart from them, there are also large residential complexes, and the famous Avenida de los Muertos (Avenue of the Dead).

We arrived at the archaeological site mid afternoon and started our visit with a quick walk around the museum, set up next to the ancient buildings, gravel parking lot and wooden tiendas (stores, selling cheap, Chinese made, pseudo-Aztec, pre-Columbian tourists junk). In fact, with 83 square kilometres (32 sq mi) the site is so large, that there are five different entrances, each capable of handling thousands of visitors.

In the times of it’s splendor, Teotihuacan is believed to have been home for as many as 125,000 people, which makes it one of the largest metropolis of that era, not only in Mesoamerica, but World wide. Some of the very well preserved structures are supposedly multi-level living quarters, but the two, most remarkable are of course the Pyramids of the Sun and the Moon.

A model of Teotihuacan, with a fraction of the Pyramid of the Sun in lower left corner, Avenue of the Dead running across center and the Pyramid of the Moon in upper right corner.
A model of Teotihuacan, with a fraction of the Pyramid of the Sun in lower left corner, Avenue of the Dead running across center and the Pyramid of the Moon in upper right corner.04-Jan-2012 16:47, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 5.6, 28.0mm, 0.033 sec, ISO 400
View from the Pyramid of the Sun (half way to the top)  towards the Pyramid of the Moon, Teotihuacan, Mexico.
View from the Pyramid of the Sun (half way to the top) towards the Pyramid of the Moon, Teotihuacan, Mexico.04-Jan-2012 17:05, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 5.6, 28.0mm, 0.006 sec, ISO 200
The Pyramid of the Sun, Teotihuacan, Mexico.
The Pyramid of the Sun, Teotihuacan, Mexico.04-Jan-2012 16:58, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 6.7, 28.0mm, 0.006 sec, ISO 200
 
Nadia, Agnieszka and Alex standing on the top of the Pyramid of the Sun, Teotihuacan, Mexico. In the background, the Pyramid of the Moon and the plaza.
Nadia, Agnieszka and Alex standing on the top of the Pyramid of the Sun, Teotihuacan, Mexico. In the background, the Pyramid of the Moon and the plaza.04-Jan-2012 17:12, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 6.7, 28.0mm, 0.008 sec, ISO 200
Alex, in the middle of the plaza in front of the Pyramid of the Moon, Teotihuacan, Mexico.
Alex, in the middle of the plaza in front of the Pyramid of the Moon, Teotihuacan, Mexico.04-Jan-2012 17:46, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 6.7, 28.0mm, 0.006 sec, ISO 200
Nadia posing on the stairs of the Pyramid of the Moon in Teotihuacan, Mexico. Behind her, the plaza, Avenue of the Dead and the Pyramid of the Sun on the side.
Nadia posing on the stairs of the Pyramid of the Moon in Teotihuacan, Mexico. Behind her, the plaza, Avenue of the Dead and the Pyramid of the Sun on the side.04-Jan-2012 17:52, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 5.6, 28.0mm, 0.008 sec, ISO 200
 
Nadia and Alex on the Pyramid of the Moon, Teotihuacan, Mexico.
Nadia and Alex on the Pyramid of the Moon, Teotihuacan, Mexico.04-Jan-2012 17:55, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 6.7, 28.0mm, 0.006 sec, ISO 200
The entire family standing on the Pyramid of the Moon, with the Pyramid of the Sun in the background, the ceremonial plaza and the Avenue of the Dead to the side.
The entire family standing on the Pyramid of the Moon, with the Pyramid of the Sun in the background, the ceremonial plaza and the Avenue of the Dead to the side.04-Jan-2012 17:57, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 5.6, 28.0mm, 0.008 sec, ISO 200
Sitting on top of one of the smaller structures around the ceremonial plaza, with the Pyramid of the Moon as backdrop. Teotihuacan, Mexico.
Sitting on top of one of the smaller structures around the ceremonial plaza, with the Pyramid of the Moon as backdrop. Teotihuacan, Mexico.04-Jan-2012 18:08, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 5.6, 28.0mm, 0.011 sec, ISO 200
 
Alex with the Pyramid of the Sun, the ceremonial plaza and the Avenue of the Dead in the background. Picture taken on the Pyramid of the Moon, Teotihuacan, Mexico.
Alex with the Pyramid of the Sun, the ceremonial plaza and the Avenue of the Dead in the background. Picture taken on the Pyramid of the Moon, Teotihuacan, Mexico.04-Jan-2012 18:01, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 5.6, 28.0mm, 0.008 sec, ISO 200
Pyramid of the Moon, Teotihuacan, Mexico viewed from the top of one of the samller structures around the ceremonial plaza.
Pyramid of the Moon, Teotihuacan, Mexico viewed from the top of one of the samller structures around the ceremonial plaza.04-Jan-2012 18:05, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 5.6, 28.0mm, 0.017 sec, ISO 200
A view from the sacrificial platform in the center of the plaza towards the Pyramid of the Feathered Serpent. The Avenue of the Dead in front, the Pyramid of the Sun to the left. Teotihuacan, Mexico.
A view from the sacrificial platform in the center of the plaza towards the Pyramid of the Feathered Serpent. The Avenue of the Dead in front, the Pyramid of the Sun to the left. Teotihuacan, Mexico.04-Jan-2012 18:17, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 5.6, 28.0mm, 0.008 sec, ISO 200
 
The street vendors at the Teotihuacan archaeological site even take credit cards...
The street vendors at the Teotihuacan archaeological site even take credit cards...04-Jan-2012 18:27, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 8.0, 108.0mm, 0.008 sec, ISO 400
Alex and Nadia running towards the Pyramid of the Feathered Serpent on the Avenue of the Dead in Teotihuacan, Mexico. In the background, the Pyramid of the Moon.
Alex and Nadia running towards the Pyramid of the Feathered Serpent on the Avenue of the Dead in Teotihuacan, Mexico. In the background, the Pyramid of the Moon.04-Jan-2012 18:29, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 8.0, 108.0mm, 0.008 sec, ISO 400
Nadia and Alex finger tracing the letters on the entrance sign. Teotihuacan, Mexico.
Nadia and Alex finger tracing the letters on the entrance sign. Teotihuacan, Mexico.04-Jan-2012 18:40, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 8.0, 108.0mm, 0.017 sec, ISO 800
 

The original name of the city is actually unknown. Teotihuacan, which means the Birthplace of the Gods, was assigned many years after the fall of the city. The earliest buildings date back to 200 BCE, and it’s still unclear who developed them. The sudden decline and fall of the site is estimated to have taken place in the second part of the 6th century CE.

The largest structure is the seat of the emperor, the Pyramid of the Sun – second largest in the World, dwarfed only by the one in… Cholula. As a side note here – even though I didn’t plan it that way – accidentally and quite unwillingly, we’ve managed to see the two largest pyramids in the World, all on the same day! And quite frankly, we didn’t even realize that until doing the long overdue homework of checking facts in Wikipedia.

The second largest structure in Teotihuacan is the Pyramid of the Moon. Even though smaller than the imperial structure, the layout of the entire city suggests, it has been the central point of this ancient metropoly. The Avenue of the Dead  runs in front of the Pyramid of the Sun, but it ends (or starts?) on a large plaza in front of the Pyramid of the Moon. That suggests, that the ceremonial sacrifices were either starting or taking place in front of the smaller pyramid, the seat of the religious leaders.

On the other end of the Avenue of the Dead is the third, smallest of the three pyramids of Teotihuacan. The Temple of the Feathered Serpent is famous mainly because of the fairly recent discovery of hundreds of bodies buried underneath it. Most probably, those were the victims of the ceremonial sacrifices.

Sounds that, living in Mexico in the old times was even more exciting then today…

Hit the Road Again

In Poland, people often say, that everything’s good ends quick. We have been living in San Miguel de Allende for the past five months, almost half a year. The kids went to school, the adults worked on their own little projects. We all learned a bit of Spanish (some more then others) and made a lot of good friends. On Friday we will hit the road again. Our Mexican visa expires by the end of April. In order to see a bit more of the country we got to love so much, we’ll set off three weeks before that deadline and head towards the US border using roads less traveled. That is, hopefully less traveled by the drug and people traffickers…

Some time ago we visited Morelia, where we stayed with a wonderful family we’ve met early January in Los Azufres. They showed us their beautiful town, took us to Patzcuaro and offered a free stay at their summer house in Ixtapa. Taking advantage of that offer, we’ll leave San Miguel at the end of the month, just when the kids would have started their two weeks spring break. Through Morelia, we’ll head south to Ixtapa, where we plan to stay for about a week of “well deserved” vacations. Then, along the Pacific coast, we’ll travel north to Puerto Vallarta and on to Matzatlan, where we plan to embark on a ferry, that will take us across the Gulf of California to La Paz. On the Baja, we’ll make a little loop to visit Cabo at the Southern tip of the peninsula, then turn North and through a little village called Guerrero Negro (very dear to our memories), head towards Ensenada and Tijuana. I’m not sure exactly when we’ll cross the border, or what we will do on the West Coast, but that’s not important right now.

What matters, is to prepare for the trek and to tie a few loose ends. It’s end of March, which means even homeless, jobless souls like us have to get their act together and file their US tax returns. That’s priority number one. Second thing is to decide what we are going to do comes August. That’s when the lease on our house expires and our travel fund dries out. That means finding a new job, and a place to live. Time to update that resume and send out a few letters. And finally, we also need to prepare for the next part of our trek. It will be definitely longer than the first part. Both, in terms of time and distance. For that, I’d like to spend some time in the library and prepare an interesting route.

Why in the library, you ask? Well, some time ago, I came to the realization that we spend way too much time in front of our computers. Don’t get me wrong, they proved useful at times. Even often. But that doesn’t change the fact they’re mostly evil… You turn them on to find a campground near Ixtapa. It only takes Google a fraction of a nanosecond to return three billion, highly relevant ads, and a few loosely related results… That’s impressive and makes you feel highly efficient. You start browsing through them, and suddenly – three hours later – you know what all of your friends back home had for dinner, but you still don’t know where you are going to sleep next week. You start over and another three hours pass, while you read irrelevant nonsense, that leaked into your “highly efficient” workflow. The library on the other hand, is about 10 minutes from our apartment. It takes roughly 5 minutes to find the right guide book and about 30 to do an in depth research. An hour later, I’m back home with a (hand written) trek plan in my hands, and… plenty more time to kill!

For we have designated Thursdays computer free days! I have to admit, I’ve been the biggest offender. Even though not addicted to following other people’s lifes on Facebook, I’ve been constantly tinkering with yet another programming project or another “great” idea. Last two computerless Thursdays helped me realize, that except for the few important matters I need to attend, there isn’t much stuff we need computers for anyway… First there was anxiety, almost fear and panic attack. How can I put the computer away? There’s so many things I need to do! But then, after a few computerless days, a certain calmness and clarity started to take it’s place. Matters got prioritized, life simplified and somehow the days became longer and more enjoyable. Our kids are thrilled! They love the idea, and when I first proposed it, they immediately countered with Saturdays and Sundays be computerless as well. Since recently I’ve managed to fry my computers’ hard drive, I’m seriously considering institutionalizing a few more analogue weekdays in our schedule. I only wish I fried that hard drive much earlier!

For the past five months we’ve been living in one of the most beautiful places on Earth. We’ve met wonderful people, made friendships and learned a few things. On one side, I wish we could spend more time here – the weather is great, the town magnificent, almost magic. On the other though, we realize that although rare, such places are all over the World. And if we want to see them all, it’s time to hit the road again…

What to do when you have a sore throat?

Last week I found myslef lying in bed, not even able to go to the bathroom. I was sick. It wacked me out of a sudden, without any warning whatsoever, no prior signal. It was Friday. My husband had to take the kids to school since I was afraid I might just fall on the ground and not be able to get up. My children were petryfied, they have never seen their mother so incapable.

I had a fever 104 F and a sore throat. Not a good feeling at all. Shivering fully clothed under the covers in my bed I could not even sleep. When Robert got back I asked for aspirin, just to get a break from the fever for a while so that I could take a nap. I slept most of that day. Later on I decided not to fight the fever anymore. Fever is actually a good thing, the high temeperature helps your body fight off all the microbes. So I continued to rest in my bed with a wet towel on my head.

The next day I officially won the battle, the fever was gone but……my throat was milion times worse!!!!I could not eat, drink, swallow, talk….even breathing hurts.

So I made myself salty water to gargle my throat with. My mother tought me that trick long time ago, when I was a kid. She knew it from her mother of course:-) I mixed 1 cup of water with 1 tablespoon of salt and gargled my throat 3 times that day. I swear, it must be as salty as the water at the bottom of the saltiest ocean. Who cares, right, I am not swallowing it and I would do anything to feel better:-) I also took oregano oil just in case the infection was moving down from my throat.

The next day it was considerably better. I could feel my energy coming back.

Salt gargle works because it sucks moisture out and promotes osmosis. This is why salting eggplant or tomatoes makes them give up their liquid so they’re easier to cook with. In your throat, it draws moisture out of any bacteria who have „just moved in”, and it draws moisture out of your own swollen tissues, relieving inflammation.

Salt also cleanses out post-nasal drip and other bacterial material, a salty environment prevents bacteria from growing. That is how the meat was kept from going rancid in the medival ages, salt is a bacteria-fighter.

Next time when you are coming down with a cold try it and there is high probability that you will feel better afterward. For some, it might be too ancient but for me it is worth trying especially in today’s antibiotic resistant world.

A shamrock anyone?

Great project just in time for St Patricks day! A shamrock made from toilet paper tube. Very easy, just few things needed and even the youngest ones can do it:-)

Materials needed:

  • 2 toilet paper tubes
  • measuring tape
  • pencil
  • scissors
  • glue
  • green paint

Here is how you do it. Flatten the toilet paper tubes, measure,  mark 1 inch strips and cut.

You need 5 rings to make one shamrock. Take four and form them into hearts. Cut the fifth to make a stem. Glue all pieces together and paint green once the glue is dry. Feeling lucky yet?

Spring is in the Air

Here in Mexico it is sunny and worm all year round. Yet all of my Mexican friends can not wait for spring…?!?!?! What it means is that it is going to get significantly hotter. For them it is a blessing, for us… not so much. Anyway, we decided to welcome the new season with a flower project. It is cute, made from recyclable materials and easy, because even our almost 4 years old Alexander could do it:-)

Here is what you need:

  • egg cartons (preferably white)
  • toilet paper tube
  • bottle cleaners
  • paints
  • scissors

Cut up the egg carton into 12 cups. Shape up with scissors if needed. They are going to be the flowers. Paint them different colors and let dry. Paint the paper tube as well. This is going to be your vase. Once everything is dry, make little holes in the bottoms of the egg cups and insert the cleaners, the stems. Put your flowers into the vase, no water needed:-) Enjoy!

Girls Best Friends… Weights

Diamonds are too but they do not have any proven health benefits:-)

Today’s post is going to be about lifting weights. And I am taking serious weights, not some 1lbs pink dumbbells. There are many benefits, but I am going to list just a few main ones, that made me swap my cardio routine couple of times a week for some serious lifting:

  1. Increased metabolic rate – what it means is that your muscles are like engines burning more fat much longer after your workout is already over. While cardio is a great way to increase your metabolic rate only weight training can permanently do it. With every 1 lb of lean muscle you simply burn 35-50 cal a day, so with 10 lbs it is between 350-500 cal a day. How much cardio do you have to do to burn 500 cal ?
  2. Improves and restores bone density – regularly putting weight on your bones improves their spinal bone mineral density, add an adequate amount of calcium and you have a formula fighting osteoporosis.
  3. Increased strength – it is a great feeling to find out how strong you really are, not to mention all the request from your husband to open a jar:-)
  4. Injury prevention – you body is getting stronger, so there is less possibility for injury.  It becomes even more important as we grow older so take care of yourself… now!
  5. Looking better – it is no secret, that we all want to look our best and why shouldn’t we? It does not take long to see results, only few months of regular training and your self esteem arrow is gonna go up:-)
The above is what the science has to say now the following is my personal experience and observations.
Having 2  almost 9 lbs kids via C section and then nursing them for over a year each left my body far from perfect. I was thin but my boobs looked like deflated baloons, my butt was flat and my tummy …och well I got a lot of “Are you pregnant again?” questions. Everything was hanging:-(I shortly convinced myself that a tummy tuck and a boob job is going to be the only way. The problem was justifying the cost to my cheap husband who said he loves me no matter what:-) I did cardio but only when I switched to training with weights I was able to reshape my body. All I needed was commitment and hard work. My body is not perfect and it will never be because there is no such thing. That was not the goal. I just wanted to feel good in my own body again and I acomplished my mission. I like the way I look but I LOVE the way I feel. It was not only a physical change it was mental, far more important. And the fact that I did it MYSELF makes me feel even better.

The one complaint I hear over and over is „ I do not want to bulk up and look like a man”. It ‘s simply not possible because women do not have enough testosterone to develop such big muscles. Most of the women bodybuilders get testosterone injections and workout 6 hours a day so unless that is what you are planning to do there is nothing to worry about.

I have been on the road for 9 months now and could not take my weights with me for obvious reasons so i made my own:-)

I use plastic beverage bottles and milk jugs instead of dumbbells.

I also use my own body weight doing push-ups and pull-ups on a regular basis. You do not need gym memberships and fancy equipment to workout, you just need to be creative. Be sure to check out older posts: “Playground fitness routine” and “Fitness on the Go” to get more ideas.

Here it is Ladies, lift havy to be healthy, strong and lean.

 

Chocolate and Cinnamon Mousse

What comes to your mind when you think of dessert? I bet it is ice cream, cake, pies, probably cookies etc.,  but not… avocados, right? Wrong! What I am about to show you is going to be a big surprise for many as it was for me the first time I ate it. This dessert is not only delicious, but nutrition packed and healthy so you can enjoy it without any guilt.

Ingredients:

  • medium, ripe avocado
  • tablespoon of coconut oil
  • 1 tablespoon of raw cacao
  • tablespoon of raw honey
  • ¼ teaspoon of cinnamon
  • coconut flakes for garnish

Place first five ingredients into the food processor and mix well until you get an even, creamy consistence. Put into a nice glass or a bowl and sprinkle with coconut flakes. Enjoy and let me know how did you like it!

Avocado…the Fattest Fruit of All

A recent conversation prompted me to write about one of the best, nutrient dense and fattest fruits of all- Avocado. With 31 grams of fat per medium avocado, they are an exception among the fruit family. How can this be good for me, you ask? That is exactly what prompted me to write this post.

I felt in love with avocados many years ago when I came to live in America. In Poland avocados back then were almost unknown, now they are in every major supermarket.

The taste of a ripe avocado is a fiesta for your taste buds. Like nothing you had before, incomparable deliciousness.

Avocados are a “superfood” that EVERYONE should include in their diet. Most people do not realize the benefits of them nor have any idea how to eat them. Some also got brainwashed thinking that fat is your enemy, so they exclude avocados on purpose, „to maintain healthy weight”. I can not even begin to tell you how many times someone said” You eat avocados on a daily basis?!!?What about all the fat content?!?!!?”

Well, there needs to be a better education in regards to nutrition because an average person does not realize, that we actually need fat to absorb all the necessary nutrients and vitamins such as alpha-carotene, beta-carotene and lutein. Without fat our body and all the processes are out of balance! And let me assure you, most people actually are seriously deficient in healthful fats. Avocados are a prime example of an excellent source of healthy, raw fat and provide many essential health-boosting nutrients including fiber, potassium , vitamin E, B-vitamins and folic acid.

Please do not worry about your weight, you are not going to gain any eating avocados. They in fact are proven to help loose weight especially in the abdomen area.

Here in Mexico they are a staple. They have been eaten for breakfast, lunch and dinner for ages and people never had problems with obesity and diabetes, until soda and junk food were promoted.

My family have been eating them for many years now and „unfortunately” we are all addicted:-) Both my children have been eating avocados since they were 7 months old, in fact it was their first solid food shortly followed by banana. We eat it as guacamole, cubed in a soup, spread on bread with sardines, in a salad, mixed in a smoothie or simply by a spoonful with a squeeze of lime juice.

Avocados tend to be expensive so as a tip I can tell you that you do not need to buy it organic. Their thick skin protects them from pesticide buildup, you only eat the meat anyways. In Mexico the vendors always ask „Para hoy o para manana”, which means „for today or for tomorrow”. The difference is the ripeness of the fruit. „Para hoy” means that it is very soft to the touch and needs to be used as quickly as possible. Avocado „Para manana”is firm and can be used within few days. They ripen very well in room temperature so be sure to leave them out of the fridge.

Within the next few days I will be posting recipes using avocados ranging from deserts to drinks so please be sure to check them out………often:-)

Chocolate and Nut Trufles

A recent visit at a local natural foods store prompted me to develop this recipe. They had samples of their dark chocolate trufles that basicly tasted like haven. Yes, delicious and healthy at the same time made my brain produce endorfines and let me feel overwelmingly happy. We all know that feeling , right? That is why we keep eating chocolate untill the last square:-)

They are not only easy to make but also nutrient dense so you do not have to feel guilty when you eat them. The reason for making nuts the main ingredient is that my son is not a big protein eater so I need to smuggle them in whenever I can.

  • 1 cup of almondes
  • 1 cup of pecans
  • 2 tablespoon of honey
  • 2 tablespoons of coconut oil (melted)
  • ¼ teaspoon of cinamon
  • 3 tablespoons of raw cacao
  • Shreded coconut

Put first five ingredients and half of the cacao into the food processor and let combine well untill it forms a sticky paste. Roll into small ball and dust with cocoa or coconut. If you like things sweet just add more honey. Keep them in the fridge or even freezer like I do. They just taste better when chilled and thaw within minutes. Delicioso!!!!Enjoy.