Gratitude

 

This time last year we were in the throes of painting our home in the UK, packing up, and preparing to move to Mexico for a year or so.

As I look back over the last year, I am in awe of how far we have come….how far we have come thanks to the kindness of our family and friends. From our family back in the UK who helped us to pack up the house in the depths of winter (thanks Matthew, Steve, Helena and Darcy!), to my long-suffering sister in law, MH, who has been holding the fort while we’re away. And I’m very grateful for my fabulous Uncle Nigel and Auntie Jackie for looking after the car, the desk and anything else we’re thrown at them!

My heart overflows with gratitude for our dear friends Susan and Larry who have helped give us a roof over our heads here in Mexico and of course to Joseph and Eduardo…we wouldn’t be here in the first place if they hadn’t moved to San Miguel de Allende. These guys are our brothers and sister from another mother (so to speak!) and we adore them all!

This year has really been about the power of friendship. Here in San Miguel we have discovered a group of friends who have filled our cup, expanded our views and opened their hearts. I’m so grateful for their unconditional love and support. We have loved every minute of getting to know folks from all over the world and making the most of our time here.

I’m also so grateful for our WorldBlu team and friends who continually inspire me to grow and expand my thought. They challenge me, lift me up and only want the best for us all.

And to my Sacred France brothers and sisters – thank you for another amazing year of growth, expansion and fun in France. You make me laugh, you make me cry and you hold a space for healing.

As we all know, this year has been challenging globally and politically but that doesn’t mean life should come to a screeching halt – rather it’s an opportunity to try to see more of the good, less of the bad and return to the warmth of those closest to us who love and value us for who we are – wherever we are in our life experience.

As we sit at table and rejoice in the

mercy and goodness of the one God, may

the bonds of friendship be strengthened,

may our fellowship be a light in the darkness,

and—most importantly—may we

remember that in opening ourselves to each

other we open ourselves to God.

– Traditional, Islam

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San Miguel de Allende is for foodies!

e1276e8a-9667-40fb-9cd5-986beda76e09San Miguel de Allende really is a mecca for foodies. Just last year The Independent – a well respected newspaper in the UK – published a fantastic article about the rise of the food industry here. And it was a pretty accurate article.

Since moving here we probably haven’t taken advantage of all the food that this town has to offer but we do have our favourites:

The taco stand on Insurgentes (near the Biblioteca)

Tacos Don Felix – amazing Mexican food!

Lavanda – fab place for breakfast

Nirvana Spa – perfect for a long lingering weekend lunch in the country

Grandpa & Sons – Lovely sliders and lovely ambience at Fabrica La Aurora arts centre

Luna Rooftop Tapas Bar at the Rosewood – perfect for sundowners and tapas

Basiliaia – fabulous tacos

Cumpanio – Fabulous little french bakery and restaurant – makes us feel like we’re home. Try the truffle french fries!

Nectar – our favourite little veggie cafe where you can eat surrounded by hummingbirds

Antonia’s Bistro – one of the newest places in town with great views and fabulous food!

Pizza Pig – the best pizza in town – but we’re biased…the place is owned by our wonderful friend Timo!

Actually the list is endless. There is no shortage of international food here from german food at Berlin to an Indian restaurant (run by a Brit), sushi, chinese…and of course Mexican! We could eat at a different place each night and still not visit everywhere in town.

Last week we had some friends in town so we took advantage of several really fun nights out catching up over good food.

The Restaurant is a great place for burgers on Thursday evenings. Best burger I’ve had in a long long time!

Garufa is an Argentine restaurant which had great steaks even if the service was awful! Nevertheless it’s worth it for the flank steak alone!

Berlin is a small bar serving hearty german food – perfect for those cold winter nights.

Perhaps one of the top restaurants in town is Aperi. A fine dining experience housed in a contemporary courtyard. We gathered there last Friday to celebrate Joseph’s 40th birthday over an 8-course tasting menu that was phenomenal. We particularly enjoyed the foie gras, duck confit, truffle and mushroom pasta, pork belly and beetroot, raspberry and hibiscus dessert. All small plates that were mighty on taste and texture-and works of art. What a night!

 

Cooking….and more cooking!

Those that know me, know that I love nothing more than gathering people around a table and cooking for them! Entertaining is so much fun.

In recent months, given that Joseph and Eduardo rarely cook, they’ve let me make use of their fabulous new kitchen in return for doing the odd dinner party of two….or larger. They’re taking full advantage of our services until we return to the UK next Spring! I’ve cooked everything from Shepherd’s Pie, Spinach and ricotta Cannelloni, green curry and roasts to Maple Pecan Pie, Cakes, Apple bakes and trifle. Most have worked out well – won’t attempt the Fig and Ricotta tart again anytime soon! With Matt as my helper and washer upper…we’re a good team!

By far one of the most fun cooking experiences has been preparing appetisers for Joseph’s 40th Birthday this past weekend. Fig jam, blue cheese and dried ham canapes, spring rolls, brie and cranberry toasts, rosemary nuts, guacamole and much more. I didn’t stretch to making the cake, but we did order one which was delish!

This being Thanksgiving week (and since I’m an honorary yank!), I’m planning on cooking up a storm. Our fabulous friend Ed is joining us all the way from LA (can’t wait to see him tomorrow night!). With several events to cook for over the next week, I’m looking forward to gathering friends around the table and giving thanks for the amazing memories they’re helping to create here on our Mexican adventure!

 

For Alex and Jonatan

Today’s post is dedicated to my friend Alex and her son Jonatan.

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Alex is originally from Indonesia and we met during our first week of college together in the USA 21 years ago. We attended a small college in the Midwest called Principia College which had a great program for overseas students. We shared a room during our international orientation week and have kept in touch ever since. Because the political situation in Indonesia was too rocky after Alex completed college she was unable to return home and instead moved to Europe. While settling there Alex actively campaigned for freedom in her home country and also set up a successful photography business. Fast forward a few years and Alex married and had a baby boy called Jonatan.

The marriage broke down when Alex feared for the safety of her son and needed to escape her abusive husband – world renowned writer Jonas Jonasson. With money and a large legal team behind him, somehow Jonas was able to claim full custody of their son despite issues with alcohol. Alex was unable to see him and has spent literally years fighting this decision in the courts and campaigning for the right to have contact with her son. The last time she was allowed any contact with him was in 2011. Now, she is not even allowed to send him letters, Christmas and birthday gifts or to call him. I can’t imagine what that must be like for both Alex and Jonatan.

What is troublesome is that the Swedish Court of Appeal DID grant visitation rights to Alex several years ago but have no power to uphold the decision and therefore no contact has been made. Currently Alex and Jonatan both reside separately on the island of Gotland. Even more disturbing is that in recent years a number of cases of downright racism in child custody cases in Sweden have come to light and it seems that Alex and Jonatan are victims too. In addition, we are sure that Alex is also singled out as a poor mother because of her Christian faith.

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Each time Alex seems to make progress through the legal system, blocks seem to be put in her way. Jonas Jonasson has unlimited resources and a strong relationship with media which has enabled him to be a successful author and wield this power to whitewash the facts…talk about lacking integrity.

I’ve watched Alex’s story unfold from afar all these years, sometimes offering further support with campaigning but feeling somewhat powerless to help affect real change. Through these years Alex has been principled in all her actions and on the whole kept a sense of calm that is incredible to witness given the seeming strain that she is under. All Alex wants is the opportunity to be in touch with her son and for him to understand where he comes from and to know that she NEVER abandoned him and he is very much loved. You can find more out about the case here.

Sadly Alex’s story is all too common in Europe. There are countless cases of discrimination against parents and children who have been failed by social care systems that are no longer fit for purpose. So for now until courts and governments wake up to the institutional racism, Alex, Jonatan and countless others are caught up in a failing system.

It’s true that sometimes a child must be removed from a parent for their own safety. However, in the case of Alex and Jonatan that is simply not true. All through this ordeal Alex has been transparent about with information which highlights the ridiculous nature of her case. She has tirelessly campaigned. Alex will never give up on Jonatan.

When I originally wrote this post a few days ago and then re-read it, it sounded like a massive rant…I needed to get the sense of injustice and hurt that I feel for my friend out of my system. Since then I’ve edited the post, toned it down and tried to remove the emotion. But at the heart this is a human rights case and deserves far more attention.

I encourage you to take a look at the above information for yourself and if you feel so moved, please add your voice to the campaign but talking about it on social media using #savejonatan, share the story and sign the petition.

Day of the Dead Pt. II

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With dark ominous clouds overhead, thousands of people gathered in the centre of San Miguel this evening at the height of the Day of the Dead celebrations. Surrounded by masses of altars celebrated dearly departed, the atmosphere was upbeat and festive. Everyone was out in their finest – costumes from little ones dressed as mummies and carrying coffins to the more traditional catrinas – in all shapes and sizes.

Inspired by the world famous sketch of La Calavera Catrina by Jose Guadalupe Posada (sketched around 1910-13), masses of people were dressed to the nines in costumes and iconic makeup depicting Catrina. Catrinas depict a female skeleton dressed in a European upper-class dress from the early 20th century. The original sketch was seen as a satirical portrait of natives who aspired to adopt European traditions in pre-revolution Mexico.

At this time of year, local makeup aficionados must be doing a roaring trade. We noticed masses of people queueing up to have their catrina make up done. I would have joined the line but Matt had no desire to hang around waiting for me….sushi was calling!

Celebrations reached their height as masses of catrina’s danced their way into the Jardin to the sounds of mariachi bands and laughter. And as ever, just sitting on a bench in the Jardin and people watching is one of the most fun activities of all on a night like this!

Day of the Dead marks the night when dearly departed return to celebrate life with their loved ones. So with that in mind, I’m feeling my phenomenal, crazy, love-filled Mum, Grannie-Mum, Mumsy (my fabulous mother in law), Ciaran, Ning, Bente and many others close by. Mum would LOVE these celebrations – always the life and soul of a good party!

The food stands were out in full force groaning with tacos, corn and candy galore. That said, we both had a craving for sushi so we headed off to one of our favourite places for a treat – Sushiitto. Yummy!

We staggered our way back up the hill afterwards – our bellies full with fish and rice…I say we…I mean ME! Since moving here Matt has had the time to his daily walk up and down the hill while I’m working, so he practically runs up the hill these days. I enjoy a more leisurely pace tinged with a bit of a pace these evening while trying to out-run the impending storm. Thankfully we made it home just as the heavens opened.