Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year!

Let's have a toast:

and some tapas:

And if you wish for abundance of riches in 2009 you might want to try a Spanish habit of eating (quickly) 12 grapes at midnight!

All sweet ones symbolize months of prosperity, the sour ones - less so. So let's have a sweet grape year - all of us!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

High on High!

Post Christmas weekend was devoted to high culture... which in Atlanta - at least as far as visual art goes - means High Museum of Art.

Art is one of the things I miss most living in Puerto Rico (the other being: comfortable housing, decent roads, fresh vegetables, less bureaucracy etc. ).

Yes, I have visited -more than once - the musea ( I know that in English I should have written museums but for a student of Latin it sounds soooooo totally wrong, I'll stick with the correct Latin plural from museum, that is musea) in Ponce and San Juan, but High in Atlanta, in addition to its impressive permanent collection, exhibits regualrly interesting collections from other leading musea in the world.

And right now it had three such exhibitions going on at once, and I did not want to miss any of them. So I decided to devote one day to see The Masterpieces from Louvre and Medieval and Renaissance Treasures from Victoria and Albert Museum in London.

Please click on the links and come see them with me - you won't regret it!

But one of the days had to be devoted solely to one of the biggest archeological art discoveries of the previous century: the terracota army of the first emperor of China.

Its sheer magnitude is mind boggling: as is the artistry of each individual piece

So, please, click on the exhibition link, see the masterpieces of ancient China, watch the videos, ENJOY!

Saturday, December 27, 2008


This Christmas was fun!

First I ran around Atlanta, freezing (since I had no time to go to storage and retrieve my winter clothes), shopping for ethnic food - both Swedish and Polish... and for American Christmas Day turkey dinner, too.... since my daughter wanted to have all these traditions observed during the holidays.

Both in Poland and Sweden the biggest, most important, traditional feast is a Christmas Eve dinner:

in Poland a "fasting" (here fasting just meaning: no meat) feast of seven ... no, not seven fishes, as is the tradistion in Italy, but seven...or nine... or even twelve different dishes (most of them fish, though), which you begin to consume when a first star is spotted in the sky .

Don't worry about what to do, when the sky is overcats: someone will eventually get hungry enough and insist he spotted a star... and everybody will accept that gratefully.

In Sweden a traditional Christmas eve dinner is a Julbord, a Christmas smorgoasbord.... with all sorts of herrings, lax, but also ham, meatballs, sausages, cheeses.

Thus in both Poland and Sweden an overabundance of food, just rather different types of food.Swedish food was far easier to get, thanks to IKEA, which had all sorts of Swedish fare: herrings, crispbreads, cheeses, caviar, Swedish ham, lingonberries, Princess cake...

Polish food was nearly impossible to find in Atlanta, so I finally gave up on most traditional Polish Christmas Eve dishes, except for my daughter's favorite:

cabbage ( half fresh cabbage, half sauerkraut) sateueed with porcini mushrooms,

...which , however, she'll get first tomorrow, accompanying a pork roast with plums,
not a pan fried fat fish, as Polish Christmas tradition would demand, since that particular kind of fish was not available even in the World Farmers' Market :-(((

I also had to give up on a traditional Polish dessert, which I love:

a poppy seed sufflet with tropical fruit and whipped cream: trying to buy a pound of poppy seeds in Atlanta could get me suspected of attempting to make opium.... not a particularly appealing prospect.

When I lived in central Texas I could always drop to any of the ethnic Czech bakeries,

order a poppy seed strudel...
and ask to buy a pound of poppy seeds for my sufflet from them. Besides, in Texas, Minnesota and Colorado there were Polish ethnic shops, but there is none in Atlanta. Had I been planning this better I could have ordered everything from Chicago by mail, but I did not.

Next I was preparing all the dishes I could, just as my daughter wished to have them, being in a traditional mood this year, but then I tried really hard not to eat them myself, as nearly all are too fat, too heavy, in short: completely unsuitable for a diabetic.
And a Christmas miracle happened: I lost seven pounds during the Christmas week, surrounded with all that food. If that's no miracle, I don't know what is ;-)!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008


or salt cod fritters are a favorite snack in Puerto Rico.

They came from Spain and there are called bunuelos de bacalao and are round, looking more like donoughts ( codfish donoughts, anyone? :-)... sounds a little weird, doesn't it?), while the Puertorican ones (that I ingested!) are flatter, more like pancackes. Also, Spaniards add parsley to theirs, while Puertoricans don't.

Still, both varieties are great.

If you want to make them from scratch, here is a Spanish recipe:

500 g (or 1 lb 2 oz) of salt cod
1 large potato, unpeeled
2 tablespoons milk
oil (best to use: olive) for deep frying
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
30 g (1/4 cup) self raising flour
2 eggs, separated
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh flat-leaf (Italian) parsley

Soak the cod in water for 24 hours, changing water regularly: at least 4 times.

Cook potato for 20 minutes or until soft. Cool, peel and mash with milk and 2 tablespoons of olive oil.

Drain the cod, cut into large pieces, place in a saucepan, cover with water and bring to the boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium and cook for about 10 minutes. Drain and cool. Remove skin and bones, then mash with fork until flaky.

Meanwhile heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a frying pan, add onion and cook over medium heat for 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook for one minute. Remove from heat.

Combine the potato, cod, onion mixture, flour, egg yolk and parsley in a bowl and season.

Whisk egg whites until stiff then fold into the mixture.

Fill a large heavy-based one third full with oil and heat to 190 C (375 F).

Drop heaped tablespoons of the cod mixture into the oil and cook for 2 minutes or until puffed and golden. Drain on paper towels and serve immediately.

,in Puerto Rico you can make bacalaitos without going to all that trouble, since there are ready - or almost ready - mixes for them here and special frying pans for bacalaitos as well - see picture above.

They taste sooo good and apparently have less than 50 calories each, so you can indulge in two... or even three of them. :-)
Buen provecho!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Grand opening

Life would be too sweet in Puerto Rico, I guess, if its bureaucracy was a little more oriented toward serving the public ( that pays through the nose for it) and a little less toward creating obstacles under the slightest of pretexts... and often, with no pretext at all.
Anyway, common sense and goodwill prevailed this time and La Casa de Junny was finally ready for its grand opening.

Friday before Thanksgiving trustees,


clients and their families,

invited officials, media and - last but not least - future tenants,
descended on La Casa de Junny to take part in its grand opening.

After a handful of inauguration speaches

a representative of the future tenants cut the ribbon,
AMPI employees formed a receiving line,
and each of them escorted a tenant to her room as both tenants and guests entered La Casa de Junny.

When the tenants settled happily in their beautiful new home, and guests had enough time to inspect it in detail, both tenants

and guests
enjoyed lunch.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Turkey-less Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving started early this year. On Tuesday I had an afternoon meeting in San Juan, which coincided perfectly with my daughter's arrival.

She arrived in the evening and wanted to do some Christmas shopping in Old San Juan, so we stayed overnight in the city. After a year spent in Puerto Rican towns and villages full of ugly concrete bunkers enveloped in even uglier metal cages, I truly enjoyed the architectural grace of Old San Juan, without holding a grudge that it lured me to Puerto Rico under false pretenses (I first visited Puerto Rico on a cruise , and naively thought the entire island was as charming as old San Juan - a big, big mistake)
Enjoyed the gracious buildings, the pretty balconies,

even the early Christmas decorations ... although I, as a principle, oppose Christmas before Thanksgiving. It feels so out of place.

But I LOVE old San Juan, no matter what!

So we spent Wednesday shopping, doing our dardenest to stimulate the economy in a typical American way: spending money.

Still, it was not easy: both old San Juan stores and the stores in the outlet mall in Barceloneta, where we shopped on our way back to the west coast were so full of bargains, almost everything seemed to cost a lot less than a year ago.

During the rest of the week we mostly enjoyed the sea and the beaches:

the one in front of my condo in Punta Arenas,

with its panoramic view of Mayaguez coastline ,

and, of course, the Playuela
so quintessentially Caribbean ,
and so full of fun!

We also went to Bahia Salinas, where we enjoyed another beach,
a spa, with its sybarytic lounging beds
around the infinity pool overlooking the typical glorious, west coast sunset

and had a great dinner at their renowned Meson type restaurant Agua al Cuello,
eating ? (see top picture) FISH! Without even a slice of turkey in sight!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

La Casa de Junny

Yesterday was an important day, a - small, perhaps, but very important -social progress day in Puerto Rico.

Yesterday the first in Puerto Rico assisted living house for people with mental retardation has been inaugurated in Mayaguez by AMPI: Associacion Mayaguezana de Personas con Impedimentos.

The house is called La Casa de Junny - named after Junny, a person with mental retardation, who died a couple of years ago.

It is a very nice house. Large, with plenty of room for 8 people and with separate appartments downstairs for the caretakers.

Until now in Puerto Rico adults with mental retardation could only live with their families - if they were lucky enough to have families able to house them and take care of them, or live in oldfashioned, often dehumanized institutions. Now it will all change. They will be able to live independently, yet assited by the caretakers they need.

Casa de Junny has ample space for both togetherness and privacy for its occupants.

It has an ample formal living room

Here filled with AMPI's employees preparing for the house's inauguration

An entry parlor

An ample dining room

adjacent to the living room

and a comfortable family/entertainment room in another part of the building
with a flat screen TV and a nice sound system

There is also a little study, where we hope to have a computer soon

There is also a well equipped
eat-in kitchen with storage and laundry

with a large adjacent terrace, serving as an outdoor living and dining room

balconies on three sides of the building

and a large yard with fruit trees, plants and lawns to use for outdoor exercise.

Last but not least
There are six individual bedrooms upstairs
each of them different
to accommodate various preferences of their new inhabitants
each of them comfortable
and each lovingly arranged
by AMPI staff and volunteers, thanks to generous donations from the people of Mayaguez and surrounding communities.