Tuesday, December 11, 2018

The Charms of Mexico - SAYULITA

Sayulita is a small village in the pacific coast of Mexico, in the state of Nayarit. It is famous for its charming town, beautiful beaches, delicious cuisine, hotels and bungalows and its chill vibe.

Personally, it's my favorite beach in all of Mexico. Not only because this is the exact spot I got proposed to at 00:00 hr of January 1st of 2015, under the shining stars, moonlight and fireworks, but also because it's just a wonder!

I have been there three times and I am charmed every time I go back! It has definitely changed over the years, it is growing, there are more hotels, more restaurants than the first time I ever went, yet it still has that hippie vibe I, and I am sure many, love and that's the reason why many people choose to come back to. In 2015, it was officially named a Pueblo Mágico (translated Magic Town) by the president of Mexico, integrating it into a group of selected charming towns throughout the country.

Local shops sell all kinds of souvenirs and accessories
The town and its buildings is full of different colors and you see people from everywhere around the world, of all colors, shapes, sizes and ages! If you are in the mood for shopping art and handcrafts, this is a great place to be.  I'm sure many will agree with me, Sayulita is like a different world. Everyone is ok with each other, it doesn't matter what you're wearing, where you're from or what you look like, it's ok, and we're all friends!

Sayulita by night

You have many options for lodging in Sayulita, including comfortable and beautiful hotels, or maybe you feel more adventurous and stay on a camping site right in front of the beach or at one of the many hostels. This last time, we stayed at an AirBnb bungalow from a local resident with private bathroom and kitchen. It was awesome!

Our bungalow rental

The food is amazing and varied. You can get street tacos, delicious juicy seafood accompanied by a beer, or maybe you decide to enjoy a nice sit-down dinner with truly amazing pasta, pizza and wine. Yum!

During the day, you can lay on the beautiful sand of the beach and have a good swim and try one of the surfing lessons they offer. Or maybe horseback riding, zip lining, scuba diving or maybe you're into golf or a yoga class with an ocean view. The massages are pretty amazing and there are so many to choose from. Or how about getting on a boat and go see the Marietas Islands in Bahía de Banderas, where Playa Escondida is, which translates as hidden beach and that's actually what it is: you actually have to swim under to reach is located and it's well worth it, because the view is spectacular! Today, it is an natural area protected by Mexican authorities, regulating how much people visit it at a time in order to protect the fauna and flora, maybe get a peek of the local orcas?

If you're in for an exotic pedicure, Sayulita has the up and coming ichthyotherapy option, where tiny fish come and literally remove off all the dead skin from your feet and leave them feeling baby-butt smooth. Don't worry, they don't bite hard, it's more just a very subtle tickly sensation, surprisingly very relaxing. The options Sayulita has to offer to spend your time are plentiful! Even if it's just people-surfing-watching or staring and listening to the sounds of the ocean waves as you drift to a comfortable beach side nap or sip a cold beer or margarita to refresh.

Whatever you decide, if you like a less commercial environment but still love to enjoy the beach, the ocean and everything that comes with a coastal town, Sayulita is a must! I really can't recommend it enough.

We found a lotus flower growing in one of the local home's yard
My hubby and I below.

How to get there?

Most international travelers will have to catch a flight with final destination at PVR, Puerto Vallarta's International Airport. Once you're in P.V., you can either:
  • Rent a car and go north, following the signs to Tepic, you keep following this road (you'll start to feel the vibe as you pass many curves and enjoy the jungle landscape) for approximately 22 miles (around an hour). The Sayulita turnoff will be on your left and you will see signs for it.
  • If you don't have much luggage, you can also hop on the local bus that will take you right outside the Arrivals area at the airport, it will have a SAYULITA sign on the front of it and will only cost you around 30 pesos (since I last checked). 
However it is you get there, I hope you do! As Sayulita is one of Mexico's charming little corners we mustn't miss out on. Let me know how it goes. ;)

If you want more information about your trip to Sayulita, here's a good website you can check out!

The following pictures were taken on the road on our way there.

*All images (except Islas Marietas, courtesy of www.marivalresidences.com) are the product and copyright of Sensibly Beautiful.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

The Charms of Mexico: Episode Two - Day of the Dead

Hello, lovely readers!

If you watched the movie from Pixar Coco that came out last year (2017), you are probably  familiar with the Mexican tradition of Day of the Dead. If you watched The Book of Life, that came out in 2014, then again, you're also probably familiar with the tradition. Or maybe "A Night to Remember" episode of season one in Elena of Avalor? Or maybe you have been to Disneyland Resort's Frontierland for their annual "Halloween Time" festivities, where they celebrate the tradition of Día de los Muertos... These are only a few examples of where we have seen said tradition being showcased recently. It is no wonder, the UNSECO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) inscribed the tradition in the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in the year 2008.

Cempasúchil is the flower associated with this holiday.

But what is the wonder of this ancient tradition? Well, first, let's take a look at its history.

Day of the Dead celebrations of honoring ancestors in Mexico date back to pre-Columbian times, perhaps a good 2,500 to 3000 years ago! After the conquest of Spain in Mexico, where the Catholic Church became relevant, the tradition migrated from being held in the summer to being celebrated around Oct. 31- Nov. 1st to the 2nd, to synchronize it with the Church's celebration of All Saints Day. Before the Church accepted this indigenous celebration, however, it was banned, especially in the northern states of the country, as they related it with the pagan holiday Samhain, also a celebration and honoring of ancestors that had passed into the spirit realm. But, as an ironic side note, All Saints Day, also All Hallows Day, which honors all saints in the history of the Church on November 1st, is said to have been adapted from the Celtic/Pagan tradition of Samhain in the British Isles. (Have you ever wondered where the name Halloween comes from?... October 31st is All Hallows Eve... Something to ponder).

Local town decorations.

By the late 20th century, most regions of Mexico practiced celebrations to honor dead children and infants on November 1 , referred to as Día de los Inocentes, "Day of the Innocents", and to honor deceased adults on November 2. The tradition is long living today!

How is it celebrated?

Ofrenda (altar) to famous Mexican comedian, "Cantinflas".

A lot of people head to the cemeteries to decorate the graves of their departed, placing photos, their favorite foods and beverages and memorabilia to encourage the visit of their souls and hear their dedicated prayers and thoughts about them or to them.

There are also people that build an ofrenda, an altar, in their homes. These altars can include anything from the departed's photo, their favorite foods and beverages, to religious artifacts such as crosses or Virgin Mary figurines, etc. A common item of decoration not only on the altars but on the streets of Mexican towns during this time is papel picado, decorative thin pieces of colorful paper cut into beautiful and elaborate designs that include floral and skeleton themes. Another common item is the cempasúchil, marigold flower, a cute and round orange/yellow colored flower. Another popular item is the alfeñiques, a confection made from sugar paste, molded into skulls of all sizes, from large to tiny, with different colorful decorations all over it to individual personality of the dead.  

Ofrenda to Pedro Infante, famous singer of the Mexican Golden Cinema age. 

Ofrenda to famous revolutionary, Pancho Villa.

Ofrenda to Frida Kahlo

Another very popular item during this time is La Calavera Catrina, which can be translated as The Elegant Skull. Originally etched by the famous political illustrator, José Guadalupe Posada, to portray natives that were aspiring to adopt European aristocratic statuses and traditions during pre-revolutionary times. Today, La Catrina, is a famously adopted icon for the Day of the Dead. It can be portrayed as female in La Catrina, or also male, as El Catrín. The female version is undeniably much more famous, however. We see her in paintings, illustrations, figurines of all sizes, as well as in people painting their faces white with black around the eyes to depict the hollowness of a skull, but with the peculiar Catrina characteristic of designs in color in the face as well as in clothing choices.

Local woman characterized as a Catrina. 

Little girl dresses as a Catrina.

What about food?

Food is an important aspect of this tradition. As I explained above, food is offered to the departed in the form of their favorite items! How delightful is that? But the living also indulge in food and drinks. A very popular item you see everywhere during this time is Pan de Muerto, a type of bread shaped like a bun, topped with sugar, it is soft and sweet when eaten. Drinks are also important. People often drink the favorite drink of their loved departed. On the streets and during the celebration, other common foods are also enjoyed, such as tamales, mole and pulque, an alcoholic drink made from fermented maguey (agave plant).

Pan de Muerto

By now, you probably have observed a common theme in this celebration, and that is of color! Color everywhere, colorful everything. The beauty of the Day of the Dead doesn't only come from honoring and remembering those loved family members that have parted, but also in celebrating life! In viewing death as an imminent part of life, because without it, there couldn't be life, while also enjoying life as it is, with it's simple pleasures, its black and white and also its colorfulness!

Can I celebrate this holiday without being Mexican?

Um, hello! Of course! Yes! Please do!
In fact, many people around the world today are starting to celebrate. Really, any day is a perfect day to honor and remember our loved ones that are finally resting in peace. But, if you happen to feel a desire to join a beautiful holiday that is being celebrated more and more each year, than I encourage you that next year, you designate a little (or huge!) corner of your home, take out a framed (or not framed!) picture of one (or several) of your loved ones that have gone, add items you know they loved or enjoyed, maybe light a stick of incense, place a cross if you are of the Christian faith, or a Buddha if you're a Buddhist, or perhaps a David's Star if you're Jewish, a Pentacle if you're a Wiccan, etc. You get my point. The beauty in this tradition is that you're celebrating, honoring and remembering your loved ones, so you're free to decorate your altar as you wish and feel will be more honorable to your loved one. And then take the day to do so! Or even just a moment, when you sit or stand in stillness and remember that person you greatly miss and send them vibrations of love to whatever realm their energy and/or spirit has transcend into.

Ofrenda to writer Moby Dick

Ceiling decoration.

Local streets in Tlaquepaque, Jalisco. 

Tlaquepaque, Jalisco

This is one of the many charms of Mexico I wanted to share with readers. This pictures were taken in the folkloric town of Tlaquepaque in the state of Jalisco. A beautiful town that deserves, and will get, a post on its own. I hope you enjoyed them and also enjoyed learning a little bit of the history and tradition of the wonderful Mexican celebration of the Día de Muertos, Day of the Dead.

*All images (except Pan de Muerto) were produced and originated for this blog exclusively and protected by copyright.
*Pan de Muerto image courtesy of www.wideopeneats.com.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Easy DIY Natural Deodorant

Hey, guys!

It is October, Breast Cancer Awareness month. I am fortunate enough to say that this disease doesn't run in my family. However, I realize that the risk doesn't fall on genetics alone.

A while back, I read an article you can check out here, that stated that, "because estrogen can promote the growth of breast cancer cells, some scientists have suggested that the aluminum-based compounds in antiperspirants may contribute to the development of breast cancer. In addition, it has been suggested that aluminum may have direct activity in breast tissue." Mind me, I know there is a lot of information coming out these days about things that are harmful and the next day a different article comes out saying that they're no longer a risk. I actually have a pretty set opinion on that subject that I would love to share with you at a later time. But, basically, I hardly listen to these types of articles anymore because they create too much confusion. Most of them come from random sources or sources that are legitimate, but have been paid research by major corporations that "instruct" these sources to twist the information enough, without obviously lying, to conclude with something that is in their best interest (that something is very often money). This article, however, was done by the National Cancer Institute, so I took it a little bit more seriously. Also, something in my gut just told me to stop using aluminum-based antiperspirants/deodorants, and I have learned that intuition is something you just listen to without question (at least, that is me). It's perfectly healthy to perspire, so what I did need, was a deodorant to control bo. 

So, harmful or not, I stopped using regular commercial deodorant. And there were a few reasons for that. The first, explained above. The second, it's so much cheaper to make my own. Third, I'm not an obsessed fanatic about using all things natural (I very well realize there are many, many things in nature that if taken, eaten or swallowed, can kill you), but I do prefer them because they are typically more safe! And as a bonus, this natural, home-made deodorant smells delicious and is so easy to make!

So, would you like to try it out? Here's my recipe:

  • In a pan, heat about a cup of organic coconut oil. 
  • When melted, add a teaspoon of baking soda (known for its cleaning and antibacterial properties) and a couple of drops of tea tree essential oil (among many more, tea tree oil is also known for its antibacterial properties), and a couple more drops of another favorite essential oil of yours, either only one or a combination of two; my favorite are lavender and bergamot together, the smell is  delicious!
  • Mix. Pour in a small tight lid container and let it cool.

Pour it in your favorite container, preferably glass. 

When it cools, it will become a solid texture, which will be your deodorant. You can use a cotton pad or even your clean fingers to apply it, distribute the little bit of left over in your hands (your hands will love this) and that is it, guys!

Becomes solid when it cools, perfect for application. 

Obviously this home-made deodorant might not work for everyone. But it has worked for me and it might for you too! Whichever the case, let me know in the comments below. 

Oh, and Happy, Happy Halloween! (I hope you liked, and noticed, my couldron above)... ;)

Also, here is a short video on how to make this deodorant. Check it out! 


Tuesday, October 9, 2018

The Charms of Mexico: Episode One - Nevado de Colima

I've told you guys before that I moved to Mexico two years ago after I got married. I am not a complete stranger to this nation at all, actually. Both my parents are Mexican and even my youngest brother was born in this country. But I was born in the United States and have lived most of my life there. There was always a yearning, however, for this place... It's not only what you hear on the news, it's so much more! It has such amazing things to offer, it's no coincidence people from all over the place choose to set residency in this country; Chapala and Ajijic, towns about forty minutes from Guadalajara (where I live), has a major population of American retirees!

Anyway, because there are so many wonderful things this country has to offer, I wanted to start a series in my blog that showcased these wonders: The Charms of Mexico. And this is the first episode.
A couple of weekends ago, my husband and I went to Nevado de Colima that translates to something like: Snowed Peak of Colima.  It is an ancient volcano located on the state of Jalisco, also the state where Guadalajara is, of 4260 masl. The area is protected by the government as the Parque Nacional del Nevado de Colima (Snowed Peak of Colima National Park). It's commonly visited during winter, where it fills with snow and tourists from everywhere climb up to its peak. There are also areas for camping so you can stay overnight and enjoy the beautiful scenery.

Nevado when it is snowed. Image courtesy of TripAdvisor.co.uk

It was September when my hubby and I went, summer and the rainy season almost over, so we didn't get to see snow, but we want to come back for that for sure!

Nevertheless, it was still a wonderful experience, everything was so green and wet! ha! Full of life, life all around us, the clouds with us on our walk, and a full moon to watch over us at night when we camped.

The whole endeavor took us about 4 hours to go up and about three more to come down. The whole day, yes. But it was well worth it. It was chilly, of course, but we had jackets on and when we finally got to the camping site, settled our things and hubby worked the bonfire, it was such a relaxing time, drank hot tea, had dinner, watched the bonfire. You know that is some mesmerizing stuff right there. We cozied up in our sleeping bags and slept right next to each other. And the next morning had a fresh air you can only breath in and experience in a site like that.

Here are a few recommendations if you plan to visit:
  • For the climb up by foot: pack lightly, bring snacks, enough water, sun block and a hat to cover you from the sun.
  • I highly suggest you bring your hiking sticks to help you on your way up.
  • Bring all your camping gear (tent, sleeping bags, blankets, cooking containers, etc.), food for dinner (*cough* hot dogs and s'mores *cough*), prep items for tea or coffee, breakfast for next morning, extra set of clothes, etc., and leave it in your car before you start your climb up by foot.
  • If you are visiting during the months of winter, bring adequate clothing and make sure to check the weather report as it's very probable there will be ice and safety measures cautions should be even greater.
  • You can bring your car up all the way to La Joya, (labels will be there to show you), and leave it there to continue your climb by foot!
  • Some people camp halfway up and then continue in the morning, but if you go early enough, you can come back and camp at one of the camping sites like La Joya at the end.

How to get there:
  1. Hop on a plane to GDL (Guadalajara's International  Airport).
  2. From Guadalajara, you must take the highway Guadalajara-Colima/México 54D or search for Ciudad Guzman in your GPS. Ciudad Guzman is the closest town to Nevado de Colima, about fifteen minutes away.
  3. Follow the road until you pass the town and you see the signs for Camino al Nevado de Colima, follow them until you see the sign Parque Nacional Nevado de Colima, enter the road, which will become a dirt road, and drive up and up and up.
  4. After about half an hour or so, you will see the gate and sign for Parque Nacional and charging booth. Currently, entry is 35 MXN, which equals about 1.85 USD (Yup!).  
  5. Keep driving to La Joya or more until you meet the next gate, which will be the last stop where you can leave your car and continue your climb by foot.

If you have any more questions, feel free to contact me!

I hope you find this information useful and consider visiting this wonder of nature and Mexico.

And I will see you later on another episode of The Charms of Mexico. Until next time! :D

*All pictures (except snowed peak by TripAdvisor) protected by copyright.

Monday, August 20, 2018

Book Recommendation: Yellow Crocus by Laila Ibrahim

Yellow crocuses flowers

“Focus on bearing, and beauty will follow. Your looks will not remain with you for life. But your bearing will go with you to the grave.” - Laila Ibrahim, Yellow Crocus

I love reading books of various genres. But my favorite is historical fiction. And it's because there have been many times in which books within that genre touch me so deeply. And I am happy to say that my first book recommendation in this blog is no exception. It touched me to the core. It was a pleasure to read this book.

For my fiction book recommendations, I will first talk about the book as to encourage you to read it, without any spoilers. After, I will include a conclusion with spoilers for you to come back after you read the book. Don't worry. I will warn you before you get there.

Yellow Crocus by Laila Ibrahim is the most recent book I've read that has officially made it to My Favorite Books list. How can I even start to describe this wonderful book? The setting is in the state of Virginia, in the United States, during Antebellum times. For those not familiar, that's before slavery was abolished in the country. From the first page I was stuck, I knew I was in for a good story.

This story, is about a black female slave, Mattie, taken away from her own baby to nurse the newborn baby girl and live in the main plantation house. It was sure an easier job than being in the fields, yet she was torn for leaving her baby boy.

Despite of that, spending so much time with Elizabeth, the baby girl, and basically raising her, it was inevitable for the two of them to form a bond so deep that it was stronger than the class differences imposed by society at the time because, of course, their relationship couldn't be more than just a child and her wetnurse. But it does exceed in a beautiful way; they become more like family and from that relationship, their lives change forever. The author describes the way this bond unfolds and allows you to understand the characters so well, with their flaws and qualities.

The story describes Mattie's struggles as a slave, something not easy to comprehend but which gives you a greater sense of empathy. It also describes how Elizabeth grows into adulthood and what it meant to be a girl and woman in her social class during that time. Her future pretty much encompassed getting engaged to a proper young gentleman and being a wife and mother. Going through this whole process with her was full of emotion.

This is a book meant for mature readers, as it does capture the cruelty of inequality and treatment to a group of people. But it also captures the loving essence that the human spirit is capable of, the reach friendship, love, family and loyalty can have. And that is how life is, without hate, there could be no love.

“This is as true a story as has ever been told: the story of my love for Mattie, and, I suppose, her love for me in return.” - Laila Ibrahim, Yellow Crocus

Coming up, I will conclude my summary and recommendation. So, click here to get Yellow Crocus through Amazon today and then come back and read the rest of this page. 😉

As the book climaxed, I truly couldn't put it down, or rather, I couldn't stop listening to it as I purchased my copy through Amazon's audiobook service, Audible. I often prefer to read my books but, for this one, I preferred to listen to it because the narrator did such an amazing job!

When Elizabeth is old enough and circumstances signal Mattie it has been enough, with an infant in her arms, she plans her escape to follow her family: a husband and her son, who is now older, into a free state. I have to say that her escape had me at the edge of my seat. Man, was it nerve racking. I was so glad that after all they went through, they made it to a new life!

And Elizabeth, oh dear, Elizabeth. How I admired her bravery. When she witnesses Edward, the gentleman she has been engaged to, raping a slave girl, she tells others around her and they all seems to think that is normal and accepted behavior, both her family and dear friend. Yet, something tells her that it isn't and she knows that if she marries him, she will never be able to live in peace.

One of my favorite parts of the book is when she is laying in bed one morning after waking up from anther nightmare where she sees the terrifying look in the slave girl's eyes when she sees Edward's cruel act and decides she must break it off with him, feeling a sense of peace fill her instantly after she makes that decision. I love it so much because there are often times when everything around us is pointing to something that just doesn't seem quite right to us, and it takes a lot of courage to follow your heart, despite what others, even those close to you, think about it and despite the fact that they might judge you or even shame you. To us, it is now very clear that Elizabeth was in the right, but back then, it sadly wasn't so obvious. Yet she followed through and stuck to her decision, no matter how hard it was. She knew that not doing so, would be that much harder.

And! She ends up proposing to wonderful Mathew! The guy who loved her first and who she truly felt a connection to. What women in her time, in this current time, would do that? Not many. Applause for her...

I hope you enjoyed this recommendation but more so, I hope you read the book, indulge in it and love it as much as I did. Leave your comments below or write to me. I'd love to hear from you. 😊

Yellow Crocus has a sequel called Mustard Seed that I truly enjoyed as well.

Para comprar tu copia de Yellow Crocus traducida en español, La Flor del Azafrán Amarillo, haz clic aquí.

Photo credit: thatSandygirl Yellow Crocus via photopin (license)
Additional photo credits:

Purchase the book by clicking:
Yellow Crocus, La flor del azafrán amarillo