Monday, December 31, 2012

Highlights of 2012

I got to watch, first hand, as one of the best friends I've ever had crossed the Mexican border, back into the US, with a fresh Visa in her husband's hands.

I got to hear my son play the harmonica, recorder and best of all, the guitar.

I saw my little sister Molly walk at her high school graduation.

I got to visit my besties back in Arizona. "Don't thank me, thank Truly."

I talked to my Grandpa David for the first time in years.

I got in the most random car accident ever and somehow, but the grace of God, didn't hurt anyone else.

My big sister got engaged! Finally. And can I say damn?! ;)

The company that I proudly work for hit $100,000,000 in revenue for the first time ever.

My son got an email address!

I lost some good friends and gained knowledge and new friends in the process.

My husband registered himself to go back and finish la prepa (high school.)

I met a couple of badass New Yorkers who gave me more confidence and direction in regards to what I want to be when I grow up. <3

A stranger paid for my order in the McDonald's drive-through, just because.

I learned how to make a pizza dough that I actually like. I'm not quite at Barro's level but I have acheived success with my calzones!

I passed all of the tests to get fully licensed in the industry I work in.

I watched the Mr. Jones video by the Counting Crows on YouTube 428 times and never got sick of it.

My Dad was in the US and had the chance to see my son for the first time in too long.

I spent an entire day on a pontoon boat with my parents, big sister, soon to be brother in law, nephew and best of all... SAM.

The world didn't end.

I spent the entire year with my husband, uninterrupted by ICE or court hearings or sentences.

Thank you God.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Not the End of the World

It's been a really good week. Obviously the biggest development is that the world didn't end. Score. I knew it wouldn't, at least not now and not like this, but it sure was fun to fantasize about last meals and bomb shelters and hoarding canned goods. Maybe next year. Even though I didn't truly believe the hype, I behaved as it was the end, although I guess I do that every day, and sure did enjoy myself in the process. I made tamales and love and got thoughtful gifts in the mail and read fantastic books and did puzzles and drank vodka and sent out holiday cards and care packages. The best part of the week was getting a chance to volunteer with my co-workers at a food bank. It was an amazing experience for me.

When my husband and I met in 2005 we were both a mess financially. He was a poor immigrant living with countless roomates and no documents that would allow him to make a decent living. I was a poor American, recovering from a drug addiction and had been living in my car for a while before finally securing a job at a call center and, subsequently, an apartment to call home. We struggled for quite a while and I vividly remember a time when we couldn't always afford to feed ourselves. I remember a particular day when I finally swallowed my pride and went to a local food bank.

I was embarassed. Embarassed that I had to ride around on the city bus with a food bank box, embarassed that I couldn't take care of myself and above all, embarassed of the addiction that had brought me to that point. We feasted that evening. Government cheese, expired bread and canned peas. I found work shortly after that desperate day but never forgot how much the program had helped me. While we were sorting through canned goods on Thursday, I quietly recalled that desperation and realized how blessed I am that it hasn't returned.

The West Texas Food Bank is seriously short handed. I can imagine that most similar organizations have the same struggle. They have so much work to do and close to no one available for that work considering their limited funds. This location only has one full time worker and one part time worker sorting through the canned good donations. That may sound sufficient but we were literally wading in cans and I cannot imagine doing that on a daily basis. It was physically demanding in a weird Mexican maquila sense because it required doing the same simple activity over and over. I have never understood my husband's struggle on la linea more than I did after an hour of sorting through cans today. I'm sure I still don't get it.

My heart literally broke when I found out that we had to throw away any can that was dented along the edges. They told us that a can with a dent along the edge could be contaminated and because said contamination could lead to people getting sick, it was better to just toss it. "When in doubt, throw it out," we were told. I felt physically sick with the amount of food we were putting in the trash but USDA law is USDA law. I wondered how many Juarenses we could have fed with the food that we got rid of. How many would give their right pinky finger for just a couple of those dented cans? That was the hardest part for me. But at the end of the day, I was happy that we were able to help and happy that my co-workers were willing to help. It takes a special breed to give back with gusto. I love the spirit of the season and wish we (myself included) could all have the same spirit year round.

I hope everyone else is enjoying their December, and all that it means, as much as I am. I have been reminded to give thanks, love big and act as if each and every day were your last day on Earth. I hope that everyone else has had the opportunity to do the same.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

My Top 10 Mexican Junk Foods

I love to eat, and for me, half the fun of moving to Mexico was learning how to cook my favorite foods from restaurants in the US, and the other half was perusing Mexican grocery stores. I love them all and could spend hours walking up and down the aisles. From the fruteria on the corner to the mercado down the street to the nearby supermercados and hipermarts, the foodie fun just never ends.


These are some of the Mexican junk foods, in no particular order, that I have fallen in love with over the last couple of years. I'm not including street foods here because let's be real; that's a blog of it's own.

Hi my name is Emily and I am a Nutellaholic. The discovery of the Kinder Bueno solidified my addiction to sugar and hazelnuts in a way I wouldn't wish upon my worst enemy. Our friends over at Ferrero describe this candy as a hazelnut cream filled wafer with a chocolate covering. I think a more accurate description would be
 "God Himself hugged by a crispy coat of angelic perfection and dipped in orgasms."
I guess that's why I'm not in advertising.

Queso Asadero. Chihuahua is famous for it's cheese and that is something I've known about for a long time. I remember living in the absolute hood of Mesa, Arizona and having random men knock on my door asking if I would like to buy some cheese, "Fresco y directamente de Chihuahua!" I have fully taken advantage of all that Juarez has to offer in the cheese department. My favorite isn't Queso Mennonita as many would assume. It's actually Asadero. I freaking love it. It comes in many forms, knots and blocks and shreds, but my favorite is the cut you see above. Please excuse my creepy extraterrestrial looking hand, I just wanted to show you how thin the slice is. They make these slices perfectly sized for a quesadilla. This is "last meal" shit people.

Cheap ass vodka. The Popov of Mexico. This isn't much cheaper than the bottom shelf US versions but I like it. This is a new drink for me (I've been pretty stuck on Presidente since we moved here) and I'm having fun playing bartender and making mixed drinks. There are just endless possibilities with vodka since there are no additives.

Speaking of getting shit faced... If you're going to drink, you're going to need some nuts. Cacahuates Estilo Japones (Japanese Peanuts) are my favorite nut choice. Despite countless lessons from Cortney, I never could master the sunflower seed. This is my drinking nut of choice and damn is it good!

I don't have a lot of memories of my father from when I was younger but the ones I do have typically revolve around The Plaza in Kansas City, Missouri. I remember going to Topsy's where they make gourmet popcorn.  I would always want this candy coated cinnamon version. One day Gordo and I were out de compras at Soriana San Lorenzo and a sexy big busted vendor girl was handing out samples of Poppin' Pop. It tasted like my youth and is the perfect combination of sweet and salty. Fantastic late night snack.

I'm a cheap drunk and my close friends know I am a boxed wine fanatic. Much to my surprise, there is boxed wine in Mexico. And when I say boxed I mean wine in tetra pacs. Franzia/Vella style boxes cost upwards of $20.00 US. No thanks. This red table wine from Valle Redondo California is my absolute favorite here and rings up at only $38.99 pesos a liter. In fact, I love it so much that I now wrinkle my nose at Franzia because it is just too sweet.

This one is pretty much a no-brainer. Mexican Sweet Breads. You can get them fresh from a baker for pennies and there are out of this world Panederias on practically every single corner. On the weekends, people line up at 7am at the door of the Superette by my house just to get their conches and marranitos. My personal favorite is not pictured because I ate it before the camera had a chance. Duh. I think they call it a cuernito de queso.
It's basically a croissant filled with sweet cheese.

I hate chips in Mexico. I hate Mexican Doritos, I hate Takis, I hate their weirdo version of kettle chips and all of the chili/limon combinations that are so loved in this country. Cheetos Poffs are the ONLY exception to my hatred.
They are only slightly different from their American counterpart and every bit as delicious.
Oh, and if you've never had wine with Cheetos... Well friend, I don't know how you live with yourself.
No seriously, how do you lay your head on your pillow each night? 

The food my husband misses the most from the US is Hot & Spicy McChicken Sandwiches from McDonald's. Go figure. They do not sell them in El Paso so he has only gotten to have one once since we moved to Mexico. I brought them for him from Ruidoso, New Mexico, which is a little ski resort town that I had to travel to for a licensing class. He devoured four in one sitting. The chicken pictured can be found at S Mart and taste exactly the same in my opinion, although Gordo disagrees. Whatever, they are off the chart delicious. They are sold as Milanesa de Pollo con Especias. Fry those bad boys up and... Mmmmm.

If a Magnum and an ice cream sandwich could make sweet, sweet love and then miraculously give birth to God in ice cream form, it would be a Tandem. These are so good and have the uncanny ability to make me feel like a 12 year old girl all over again. There is something special about novelty ice cream bars that just make me smile and this combination of strawberry and chocolate is off the charts good. I have totally chased down a Mexican ice cream truck for one of these.

What are your favorite treats from other countries?

Friday, December 7, 2012

A Week of Firsts for the Mister

We had quite a week. I'm a little sad and not sure what to write. No, I don't want to talk about it. That's really an understatement. Regardless of everything going on, some fantastic things happened for the first time this week. The first first is that we bought a bottle of vodka, which is probably what made the rest of the week start to look a little less gloomy. #addictioncalls We made all sorts of new cocktails and it was like freshman year all over again. Koolaid. That's all I gotta say.

The 2nd first was that Mr. Cruz went to the dentist for the first time in his entire life. When he was younger he couldn't afford to go, and as an adult, I believe that I have scared the absolute shit out of him when it comes to dental work. After years of smoking crystal meth, my teeth are basically irreparable and I have endless horror stories about random, bottom of the barrel, questionable dentists. Don't do drugs kids. Because of my stories, Gordo was absolutely terrified to go to the dentist. I nagged and nagged until he made an appointment though and he went in yesterday for his first cleaning. Exciting stuff people.

I wish I could've gone with him for support and also because I am one nosey ass motherfucker who is dying to see what it's like to go to a dentista Mexicana, but of course I couldn't make it because I was working at the time of his appointment. I have tons of work that needs to be done and the latest estimate from my dentist in El Paso would leave me with a $5,000+ (US$) bill. I've held off, to say the least. Despite my lack of presence, he came out of his first cleaning alive. Although apparently they injected him with Novocaine which seemed odd to me for a cleaning, but what do I know? I'm just a crazy American, right?! Moving on...

The 3rd first, which comes in far ahead of dental work and discovering the joys of vodka, is that on Tuesday my mister ENROLLED IN PREPA! That is the Mexican version of high school. Of course I saved the best first for last. In Mexico, the educational system is very different from that in the US and your public education is only free through la secundaria which I suppose can be compared to middle school in America. Even up to that point, children only go to school for about 4 hours a day compared to the 7-8 hours a day in the US. I'm not educated enough on the topic to discuss the quality of that 4 hours. I have little to no experience with the Mexican public education system but it's clear that there are differences from the American version. I do know that Mexican private schools can be beyond excellent and there is definitely something lacking for the poor here. Surprise, surprise.

My husband's family couldn't afford to send him to prepa so at 33 years old, he was enthralled to discover that the maquila he is working for will cover the cost. I am so excited for him! As I've discussed in the past, I believe that education is everything in this world, and something the majority of us take for granted in the US. Of course he is nervous and intimidated and worried but I know this is going to be an amazing thing for him. I'm proud of him for taking this step because I know what it means for him and understand the emotional cost and the fear behind all of it. I am so unbelievably proud of him. He is supposed to start class on January 5th. I'll keep you posted with the progress.

In perspective, it's been an amazing week. I suppose I am just writing this as a reminder that I need to concentrate on the good things. Keep it real lovers. Keep it real.