Friday, April 29, 2011

Z - Zacatecas

About ten years ago  we hosted a Mexican man who had come to Victoria to learn English.  The city he came from was called Zacatecas and it was the first time we had ever heard of it.  So it was natural that when we traveled to Mexico in our beat-up motorhome in 2009 we made a point of visiting this city.

Zacatecas is a silver mining city built by the Spaniards a couple of centuries ago.  It's located almost in the centre of Mexico at an altitude of 8,500 feet (higher than Mexico City) and it is a very special place.  We had heard that it was built in a ravine and there were cliffs above it with a tram going up to the top.  But we really didn't know what to expect.  Well it exceeded all our expectations.  This city of 100,000 people is both simple and sophisticated.  The centre of town is dominated by Colonial buildings, notably rococo churches made out of a local stone that's an astonishing rose color.

There are centuries old aqueducts, sidewalks of volcanic basalt and steep stairs leading up the hills to the residential areas.

We happened on a wedding taking place in the Cathedral with a group of smartly dressed Mariachis.

Contrast this with the campesinos waiting for the bus in the centre of town, and the elegant restaurant overlooking the main zocalo.

We explored an old convent that's been converted to a museum focusing on folkloric masks.

And we took the tram up to the top where we explored another church and saw statues of Mexican heroes.  Apparently Zacatecas had a major role in the Mexican revolution.

This city old city has many arches and steep stairways and hidden alleyways.  It's a charming and colorful city.  Isn't it amazing that most people have never even heard of it?

Many indigenous people live here so there's another condtrast between contemporary clothing and the colorful costumes from the past.  It all blends together in Zacatecas.  

 I'm sure if you ever visit you'll be as enchanted as we were with Zacatecas.

This ends the A-Z Challenge.  It has been a bit of a push for me to post every day but it's been great visiting many other participants and meeting new friends.

Y - Yellow

 When I was a kid my favorite color was yellow.  And I still like it a lot.  It looks great on walls, especially in hot climates.  These walls are from Mexico and the American Southwest.

Some are mellow, some are sharp. 

I don't know how well yellow translates to exterior walls in the Pacific Northwest.  It can seem garish in the cooler light.  But in the south it's fabulous.

 And yellow shines in flowers.


What would our landscapes look like without yellow?  Pretty cool and/or drab, I think.

Yellow is the color of autumn trees, flame,  custard and squash soup--and of course lemons.

Yellow is such a cheery color.  I'm so grateful for yellow!


Thursday, April 28, 2011

X - xi

 Xi is the fourteenth letter of the Greek alphabet and it's also the number 60 in the Greek numeration system.  But that's all irrelevant to me.  What's important is that xi is the only two-letter word beginning with x that is in the Scrabble dictionary.

If you're a  Scrabble player, you'll know how valuable the two-letter words can be.  They allow you to make words in two directions and thus score twice for the letter common to both words.  With xi placed properly on the board (i.e. x on a triple letter score space) this little word can score a mighty 51 points.

Recently I've been playing Scrabble online through Facebook.  It's actually the only thing I use my page for--but because of this, Scrabble is becoming an integral part of my day.  I'm playing with four different people including my son and I'm somewhat concerned about the addictive qualities of this activity.  That said, if anyone who's reading this would like to play, I'm more than willing.  Just be prepared to accept the word xi!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

W - Wildflowers

Victoria has a lot of hilltop parks that come to beautiful life with wildflowers this time of year.  Last night we took the dogs to one just as the sun was setting.  I wish I could show you some pictures as the light was exquisite. But I had left my camera at home. (@#A!!!)  (I cannot tell you how frustrating this was but perhaps some will understand.)

So I'll try to describe the hilltop with the sun slanting low along the meadow casting long shadows of the gnarled oaks and shining on wildflowers dotted here and there.  The Fawn Lily, the brilliant pink shooting star also known as the Calypso Lily.

And just coming into bloom the deep purple blue of the Camas flower and the ever-present Buttercup.  

Here's a photo taken last year at another hilltop park with the Camas blooming.  If you enlarge it you'll see it carpeting the meadow.

Spring is late this year so all the wildflowers seem to be coming into bloom at once.  Just beautiful.

It's hard for me to let go of the frustration I feel when I leave my camera at home and I miss opportunities for exquisite light in pictures.  I actually planned to get up early this morning and go back to the park with my camera to try for some sunrise pictures for this post.  Unfortunately I woke up to clouds and rain so so it would have been a waste of time.  These pictures are from google image and from last year's collection.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

V - Vinca

V is a tough letter; it seems many of the V-words are puffed up and self-important.  I'm thinking of victory and vanquish and valedictorian.  The word I was looking for last night had to be modest and also it had to relate to the garden so I could link my post to Garden Tuesday.  So my word for today is Vinca.  The plant I'm thinking of is actually called Vinca Minor, sometimes known as periwinkle, and it's a terrific ground cover plant.  The most common type is the blue, pictures above which has a sweet colour and shading, but for ground cover under our cedars I chose the white variety. 

It's a little more delicate and the flowers brighten up the shady spots. 

Plus a couple plants came with a surprise purple flower as well.  We're going into the third spring with this ground cover and it is starting to fill in and look quite lovely.   I do like Vinca.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

U - Uncertainty

Nothing is certain in this life, I know that.  We all know that.  What's that old saying?  Nothing is certain but death and taxes.  But most of us pass our days with the expectation that we can make plans to have dinner tomorrow with a friend or make plans for the month ahead.  All of this is thrown for a loop when something happens that makes these certainties uncertain.

That's what we're feeling today at my house.  We're waiting for the hospital to call with a time for Jamie to have surgery on his Achilles tendon.  We're uncertain whether it will be this morning or this afternoon or even this evening.  All we know is that he's been told to eat nothing and wait for the call.   We're also uncertain whether Jamie will feel well enough to write his two final exams on Tuesday and Wednesday.  Or whether he'll be able to start his summer job on May the 2nd.   We know he'll be in a fibreglass cast for the first couple of weeks and then in a walking cast for six to eight weeks after that. 

This kind of waiting for things to unfold is very unsettling.  Especially to someone like me who likes to plan for everything.   Jamie, on the other hand, seems to be handling it all quite well.  He's my teacher today.  Or else he's just good at putting up a brave front.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

T - Tea

At our house tea is the morning drink--and the evening drink.  After a number of years we've refined our tea preparation to a fine art. Follow along if you want to know how to make a perfect cup.

1.  Use loose tea of good quality.
We've tried many types and continue to experiment.  For our morning tea we use Murchies number 10, a blend of black teas.  For evenings we try all kinds including flavoured green teas and roibus.  

2.   Use the right equipment.
For loose tea we use a stainless steel wire basket that fits right into the teapot. For a big pot we use a tablespoon of loose tea and fill the pot with boiling water.  It must be truly boiling.

You can see here how the tea leaves have expanded in the wire basket.  This allows them to release their full flavour.

(By the way, this stainless steel teapot came with us on our trips to Mexico.  The spout actually came off last year and we took it to a little shop to have it welded back on.  It's not pretty but it still works for us. )

3.  Wait
Wait five minutes then give it a little stir and pour into your cups.  

 4.  Add milk and a bit of sugar if you like.  And enjoy.