Thursday, November 28, 2013

Virginia's Birthday

The cake made by Macy Aguirre.
Friend Virginia was here for her birthday yesterday and will be here today for Thanksgiving.  Virginia always has two cats and they are always black and white, so we had Macy Aguirre make her birthday cake with a "cat" theme.  Macy did a wonderful job.

We had oyster stew, salad and garlic bread, and of course cake for dessert.  Not only was the cake beautiful it was so very delicious.  Virginia and Dan both said it had been a long time since they had had a cake so moist and delicious.
Delicious and moist cake.
Virginia opens her present.

We gave her this salad fork and spoon set that I brought back from Cuba.
Virginia likes cats.

Check out Macy's blog :Macy Cakes

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Finca Vigia: Hemingway's Cuban Home

On our last day in Cuba we visited Hemingway's farm outside of Havana.  It was the only day of our trip that it rained. Because of the moisture, we were unable to go into the house, but we could see the inside pretty well through the windows. And if I held the camera against the window, I could get a reasonable picture. 
Jane taking photos along the side patio.

This was a nice place, but I think his house in Key West is prettier.

Here is the swimming pool where Ava Gardner is reported to have gone swimming in her birthday suit.

I was glad to see his famous boat the Pilar.  It wasn't as big as I had imagined. 
The NC State Wolftrekers.
Finally, we had our group photo made in front of the house. 

Monday, November 25, 2013

Santeria Dance and Music Performance

One morning while in Cuba our group traveled to Guanabacoa and visited the Museum of Santeria Orishas.  Santeria is a religion that combines West African religions with Catholicism and was introduced by the African slaves who were brought to Cuba to work on the sugar plantations. 

There was a Santeria dance and music performance and at the conclusion our group was invited to get up and dance.  We had little choice, the dancers pulled us onto the dance floor.  It was actually kind of fun. 
Me dancing?????

Jane dancing.
Patrick dancing.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Names for Change

UMD logo from their website.

Urban Ministries of Durham is a nonprofit organization that cares for Durham's homeless and impoverished neighbors by serving as a comprehensive service provider of food, shelter, clothing and supportive services for over 6,000 men, women and children annually. They welcome guests with mental illnesses, active addictions, and those seeking outside employment.

An article in today's News and Observer featured  a very unusual fund-raising program UMD has going.  McKinney, a Durham advertising agency, created SPENT an online game based on surviving poverty. 

For those who don't have millions to donate to some worthwhile cause and have their name attached, SPENT allows anyone for a small donation to attach their name to everyday items needed by folks served by UMD. 

So I decided to play the game today, and I donated an amount that allowed me to have my name attached to a Teddy bear.  This is the text that accompanied this option:

"Being homeless can be troubling, scary and flat out traumatic for anyone, especially a kid. Unfortunately, some of the children we serve don’t have a plush companion to comfort them in times of trouble. There aren’t a lot of constants for a kid living on the edge, but lend your name to this teddy bear and make sure a child in need has a cuddly friend they can always count on."

My name added to this Teddy bear. 
Then I decided to make a donation to honor Dan and put his name on an item at the UMD. Since Dan is so fond of oatmeal himself I thought I would put his name on a donated box of oatmeal.  Here is the text that accompanied the oatmeal:

"Let’s be honest. Even the most interesting of oatmeal is still oatmeal. But when food is scarce in your home and you get to bring home a box of oatmeal, make it for your family and for once act like a “normal” family on a “normal” morning, dull ol’ oatmeal becomes something pretty special. Want to help this boring oatmeal fulfill its bold potential? Give it your name."

Dan's name added to this oatmeal.
If you would like to make a donation to this worthy cause and get your name attached to something that is extremely important to those less fortunate, go to this website:
or view this video:

Museum of the Revolution in Cuba

This old presidential palace in Cuba, with an interior designed by Tiffany's of New York, was completed in 1920 and served as the palace until 1959.  It now houses the Museum of the Revolution.
Patrick and I resting before climbing to the second floor.

Our Wolftrek group ready to go to the upper floors of the palace.

Bullets in the walls from the revolution are left intact.
On the second floor we saw the president's office with the desk and Batista's gold telephone.
The presidential desk.
Batista's gold telephone.
 I didn't climb to the third floor which according to Patrick was the most interesting part.  Among other things there was the Granma, the boat used by Fidel and his compatriots to return to Cuba from Mexico. 
The Granma in the Museum. (Photo from Wikipedia.)
 I came back down to the ground floor and as I was going around the corner of the first floor to the Ladies Room, I passed the  "Corner of Cretins". 

Cuba's depiction of Reagan and Bush Sr.
                      Cuban depiction of "W".

Friday, November 22, 2013

Libations, Libations, Libations!!!

In Cuba, Libations were not offered up to some deity in a religious ritural,  but were offered up to our Wolftrek group, wherever we went, to say "welcome".  The most common "welcome" drink was the Mojito. When we first arrived at our Hotel Melia Havana there was a Mojito waiting for us.
A Mojito.

If not the Mojito then Sangria was offered to say welcome.  Whatever the drink it always seemed to contain rum.  Actually the only way I like rum is in my rum cake where there is a rum glaze applied to the cake.  And being a virtual "teetotaler" I consumed mostly "virgin" Mojitos, everything sans the rum.

After the welcome drink, the most popular drink for lunch or dinner among our crowd seemed to be the Bucanero, a dark Cuban beer.

A favorite beer, the Bucanero.
Everyone at the table ordered Bucaneros.
A glass of Bucanero, a dark strong beer.

I usually opted for a Cuban Cola.  Once we were served a genuine Coca Cola, but it was made in Mexico.

The Cuban Cola.
At the La Floridita Restaurant we were served Hemingway's favorite drink, Big Blue Sky.
Assembly line of Big Blue Sky Cocktails.
Hemingway's famous Big Blue Sky.
My virgin Big Blue Sky, that wasn't blue at all.

At the Hotel Nacional, we were served strawberry daiquiris.

A Strawberry Daiquiri.

At the Hemingway Farm, one could buy a Sugar Cane Cocktail, made from juice freshly squeezed on site from sugar cane. 
Rebecca's cane sugar cocktail. 

Yes, there was certainly plenty to drink, but actually we drank more bottled water than anything else.  It was hot and humid, and we drank water copiously to avoid dehydration.

November 22, 1963: A Day Remembered

President Kennedy (Photo credit by NASA.).
I'm sure that all who were around on November 22, 1963, and were old enough, will remember exactly where they were when they heard the awful news that our young president had been killed.

My husband and I were living in Hillsborough, NC with our 8 month old son, Michael, and I was teaching science and math at Orange Junior High School which was directly across from our house, and my husband was in graduate school at Duke.

 I had an accelerated group of eighth graders in class that afternoon when a student knocked on the door of my classroom.  She told me the principal said to tell everyone the President had been killed.  For just a second or two, I thought President? What President?   Then it dawned on me that she was talking about President Kennedy.  I went back into the classroom and told my eighth grade students.

School was dismissed, and I hurried home to my young baby, and soon my husband returned.  It seems that we did nothing but watch television for days during the coverage of the assassination--except we were at church when Oswald was killed.  But soon reruns of that were all over the newscasts. 

It was a sad time, and I have often wondered how different our country might be if Kennedy had lived. 

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Breakfast Buffet at the Melia Havana

Turesday I talked about all the good food we had on our recent trip, but I saved breakfast for a post of its own.  We had breakfast at our hotel, the Melia Havana.  There was an incredible breakfast buffet each morning that included anything one could possibly want for breakfast.  I ate more than I usually do for breakfast because of all the choices. 

The choice of fruits was especially nice: fresh pineapple, guava, mango, grapefruit and juices of all kinds. And the food was beautifully presented.
A lovely arrangement of guava fruit.
A wide choice of juices, my favorite was guava juice.

I was surprised at how good the cheese was.
Cuban cheese.
There were several kinds of bread.


One morning I opted for a delicious egg and cheese omelet.
My breakfast.

I'm not a coffee drinker, but boy do I like hot chocolate, and the hot chocolate was so good that I drank 3 cups every morning (the cups were rather small).  It came out of the machine nice and hot and with lots of chocolate and not too much sugar.  Just perfect!
Hot drink machine.
A perfect cup of hot chocolate.

With a breakfast like this, I could have skipped lunch each day. But, of course, I didn't.