Amazing Angel Food Cake …. & strawberries!

When the kids were little, we always had birthday “season” with cousin Sara, Shane, Meghan and Hayley all having a birthday within a month (ish).  Their all time favourite was angel food cake, and I’ve done a lot with it …. layered with lemon curd, whipping cream and berries being one of the favourites.  I think this one hit it out of the park with all those yummy tastes, but in a beautiful presentation.  I finally got around to doing it for Fathers Day this year, and it was AMAZING!!

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1 box Angel Food Cake mix

1 1/2 cup diced strawberries

vanilla

raw sugar

confectioners sugar (icing sugar)

2 cups whipping cream

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Make an angel food cake mix according to the package directions.  (total admittance here, I’ve rarely made the cake from scratch – not knowing what to do with all the egg yolks given that we aren’t egg lovers).  Once you’ve mixed up the batter, line a baking sheet (17″ x 11″ ish) with parchment paper.  Pour the batter out onto this, and smooth with an offset spatula.

Bake for 17 min – check …. it should be just springy to the touch.  If not, give it an extra minute or two but be careful not to overcook.

Remove from oven, and turn out onto a tea towel that has been liberally dusted with icing (powdered) sugar.

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Roll the tea town up (I started with the long side because I had a lot of people to feed), and yes, keep the tea towel within the rolls.

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Allow to cool on a rack for about 20 minutes.

While that is happening: chop up 1 cup fresh berries. Add a dash of vanilla and a sprinkle of raw sugar.

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Whip up whipping cream.  Fold the berries with 1 – 1/2 cups whipping cream.

Gently unfold cake, and spread cream/berry mixture over.  Gently, re-roll and finish with seam side down.  Place in/on serving dish.  Use remaining whipping cream to mound on top, and garnish with fresh berries and a bit of mint if desired.

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I love the way the dusting of icing sugar makes the angel food cake look!  Sprinkle extra berries around the cake for serving, and if desired add a few sprigs of fresh mint.

Crunchy Broccoli Slaw

Broccoli Slaw

Huge thanks to SmittenKitchen for this delicious, crunchy and addictive slaw.  We loved it!  I’ve tried a few recipes out, but this one hits all the notes and it will be on repeat all summer long.

Makes about six cups of slaw

2 heads of broccoli
1/2 cup thinly sliced almonds, toasted
1/3 cup dried cranberries
1/2 small red onion, finely chopped

Buttermilk Dressing
1/2 cup buttermilk, well-shaken
1/3 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
3 tablespoons finely chopped shallot (or if you are like me, and always have some pickled red onions in the fridge, use those ….. so pretty!)

Using a jar, combine all dressing ingredients and shake vigorously to combine.  Set in fridge while you prep the salad.

Peel the broccoli stems and either use a mandolin on a fine setting, or dice quite small.  Separate the broccoli florets into bite size pieces, slicing the larger bits.

In a large bowl, combine broccoli, cranberries, and red onion.  Pour dressing over, and stir to mix well, sprinkle with toasted almonds.

Enjoy!  This works exceptionally well as a side to any grilled meat – tonight we served it with smoked baby back ribs.

Baked Sticky Spicy Chicken Wings

 

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I don’t think I can have enough chicken wing recipes.  These are perfect if you are looking for a sticky, slightly spicy, chicken wing.  Make sure you have plenty of napkins handy, you will need them.  If you like them extra spicy, just use more of the chile paste.

CHICKEN MARINADE

  • 2 pounds chicken drumettes
  • 1 TBSP toasted sesame oil
  • 1 TBSP soy sauce
  • 1 TBSP freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1 TBSP chile garlic paste (sambal oelek, or Korean chili paste)
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 tsp grated ginger

Using a ziplock bag, mix all ingredients except chicken wings.  When all ingredients are blended add the chicken and give it a good massage.  Put entire bag in the fridge for at least 3 hours.

SAUCE

  • 3 TBSP honey
  • 1 tbsp of the same chile paste you used in the marinade
  • 1 TBSP soy sauce
  • 1 TBSP toasted sesame oil
  • 1 TBSP freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced

GARNISH (if desired)

  • sesame seeds
  • slivered green onions

Preheat oven to 425.

Spread wings out on a parchment lined baking sheet.  You will thank me later for reminding you to use parchment …

Bake for 20 minutes.

While chicken is baking, whisk to combine all sauce ingredients in a heavy bottom saucepan and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to medium and allow to thicken.

Brush over chicken (or toss in a bowl to evenly coat) and return chicken to oven for another 5-10 minutes until crispy and browned in spots.

Garnish with sesame seeds and slivered onions.

Best Chocolate Oat Cupcakes

Chocolate Oat Cupcakes

If you call these a muffin, and focus on the oat flakes you could even consider this a breakfast item ….but I don’t know if you’d get away with that in my house.  Putting oat flakes into these chocolate muffins may make them a healthier snack, but they are still a treat!

  • 1 cup quick cooking oats (not rolled oats)
  • 1 3/4 cup very hot strong coffee (use decaf if you like)
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup melted butter
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten and best at room temperature
  • 1 3/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 TBSP real cocoa powder (unsweetened)
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 3/4 cup semi sweet chocolate chips (mini ones melt best, but if you like a bit of a chunk of chocolate in there use the larger ones)

Preheat oven to 350.  Line muffin tins and set aside.

In a bowl, combine quick oats with VERY hot coffee.  Stir well and set aside, covering to keep warm.

In separate bowl, whisk flour, baking soda, salt cocoa powder and cinnamon.

In stand mixer cream butter with both sugars, using paddle attachment.  Beat until light and creamy.  Add vanilla and eggs.  Mix well.

Add dry ingredients and mix just until incorporated.  Add hot oat/coffee mixture and chocolate chips, mixing it in by hand.  If you used mini chocolate chips and your oat mixture was warm enough they will melt, however if you used larger ones you will still have mini bits which I thought was perfect …

Spoon (or use ice cream scoop) mixture into paper liners, filling about 2/3-3/4 full.

Bake for 18-20 minutes, just until an inserted toothpick comes out almost clean.

Allow to cool in muffin tins.

These are great with pretty much any topping, or even left alone.  Today I made them with a raspberry buttercream icing and they were a real hit.

Coconut Curry Noodle Bowls with Peanut Dressing

I’ve been trying to simplify some of my dinner plans ….. as much as I like puttering in the kitchen for a couple of hours after work (what I call kitchen yoga), there are times I just need to make a quick dinner.  This is one of my favourites …. quick, easy, healthy and most of all, absolutely delicious.  You don’t really have to make the peanut dressing to drizzle over, but honestly, isn’t everything better with peanut sauce?

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Tonight’s version of this bowl included prawns, mushrooms, snow peas, bok choy and lots of colourful peppers.

PEANUT DRESSING:
1 Tbsp toasted sesame oil
1 heaping Tbsp natural salted peanut butter
1 Tbsp brown sugar
1/2 Tbsp low sodium soy sauce
splash of lime juice
scant 1/4 tsp chili garlic sauce
1/2 tsp fresh ginger, minced or grated
splash of very hot water (only if too thick)

COCONUT CURRY:
1 tablespoon oil
2 shallots
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced
2 tablespoons red curry paste
1 14-ounce can regular coconut milk
1 ½ cup reduced sodium chicken or veggie broth
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon hot chili paste (sambal oelek)
2 tablespoons fish sauce
2 tablespoons soy sauce

2 tablespoons lime juice (optional)

BOWL: (These are suggestions, use whatever veg you have on hand)

4 ounces rice or egg noodles
1 tablespoon oil
half an onion, chopped
1 cup chopped broccoli florets
1 cup shredded carrots
1 cup chopped asparagus
1 cup shredded purple cabbage
sesame seeds & chopped peanuts for topping
limes for serving
a handful of fresh basil & cilantro for serving

I’ve also used snow peas, zucchini, sweet peppers & bean sprouts.

To prepare your peanut sauce combine all ingredients except the hot water, blend well and stir in just enough of the hot water to allow everything to become smooth and creamy.

Preparing the curry sauce is pretty easy.  Heat oil in a sauce pan and stir in shallots and fresh ginger, saute briefly just until translucent and stir i the curry paste.  Fry curry paste for 2-3 minutes, just to allow flavours to wake up.  Stir in the coconut milk, and stock.  Simmer for a few minutes just to allow flavours to get to know each other…… Taste …. if you can handle a bit more heat stir in the hot chili paste.  Remove from heat and add the sugar, fish sauce and soy sauce.  Taste again and adjust.  Remember, every brand of these ingredients will have a slightly different profile, and you need to make adjustments for that.  Last thing is to add the lime juice.  It should wake everything up and make you want to keep tasting …..

The method is fairly flexible, saute your veg in a wok with the oil just until crisp tender and set aside.  Alternatively, if you are using egg noodles, once you have removed the egg noodle from the boiling water, plunge the veg in for just 1-2 minutes until crisp tender and remove.

SERVING TIME:

Place noodles in the bottom of your bowl, layer on the veg, and sprinkle with toppings.  Gently pour over the coconut curry.  You can make this as saucy as you like by doubling up the curry sauce if you want more of a soup.  Drizzle over the peanut sauce and enjoy!

Puerto Escondido feels like home!

We’ve spent a lot of time in beach towns along the Pacific Coast of Mexico, and I think we’ve come to realize that Puerto Escondido provides everything we love about relaxing along the coast.  There is a bay to visit for whatever your activity; from calm waters to surfing the waves.  We’ve discovered Rinconada is our favourite area, quiet and calm, most residential and great restaurants.  Not only that, it is a great walk to Playa Bacocho.

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Playa Bacocho, 2 km long and a fantastic morning walk.  These waves and undertow can be treacherous, so watch the waves for 10 minutes or so before getting in.  We enjoyed swimming and bobbing in the waves every day here.

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Playa Carazalillo is perfect for playing in the water – safe and entertaining with snorkelling around the rocky areas, where turtles are often spotted.  This is also a great place for learning to surf or boogie boarding.  A popular spot with both locals and tourists, the entire bay is lined with palapa restaurants.

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It is difficult to figure out when it is going to be a “day off” in Mexico, but when it is the beaches are full of locals.  It is so much fun to watch the families arrive by the bus load, or truck bed, carting food and drink, swimming in clothes and generally having a fantastic time.  They laugh as they bob in the waves and their joy is contagious.  Who wouldn’t love to be hanging out on this beach?

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La Punta ….. a great beach for watching surfers, boogie boarding or body surfing.  Not for the faint of heart or weak swimmers.  Find a nice shaded palapa and relax with some guacamole or tacos while you are scanning the horizon for dolphins or whales.  We were treated to quite an amazing dolphin show here, with them leaping out of the water and playing for an hour or so.  I so wish either my camera or my skills had been able to capture that!

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Zicatela is the primary surf beach, and on a high surf day the waves will be packed with surfboards.

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dsc03459Our home in Puerto Escondido was amazing.  We loved staying at this small 6 unit complex with truly magnificient ocean views.

Take a peek at those ladders between our pool and the beach view …… The “ladder rep” wandered the streets with this push cart selling ladders.  Seems unlikely, but we watched that ladder carrier go from maximum capacity to these few over 2 days!

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Right across from our gate at Las Turquezas was a path winding down to the beach at Playa Bacocho, every day started with a trip down that path for a morning walk and bobbing in the waves.

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Okay, well maybe we didn’t manage to get Vivi out of her hammock EVERY day …

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Going local …. we had use of a wash machine so instead of taking our clothes to the lavanderia we washed them and hung them on the rooftop clothes line.  Now, that is my idea of laundry heaven.

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Sunsets were amazing here, so colourful and while the colours lasted for a while, it is always surprising how quickly that sun goes from just above the ocean to dropping off out of sight.

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sunset

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Puerto Escondido is a prime growing area for sesame seeds, peanuts and mango to name of few of the crops.  I’ve never seen how sesame seeds grow before so that was fun!

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Gina, the “information goddess” has a tourist information booth in Puerto Escondido, and she can organize pretty much any tour you’d like to take.  We did go on an agricultural tour with her, and while it was informative and entertaining, it was probably a bit overpriced at 600 pesos per person.

Loved the plants here, such vivid colour everywhere you look.

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One of the people we met on our tour is Gallo …. He runs a sanctuary for critters, everything from iguanas to turtles, to crocodiles and birds.  It was amazingly clean and well organized.  For years he did this on his own, from his own pocketbook, but is now partially subsidized.  Here he is, explaining that the reason he looks like Zapata is because that was his great uncle … or great great great uncle …. some things get lost in translation!

Once you leave the interior of Mexico, often the best food is also left behind, but not here!  We had some amazing meals here and can hardly wait to go back.  We usually mix things up quite a bit when we are away, cooking at home with local ingredients and eating out as well.  This time, I’ll admit, we ate out more than not, but it was an easy decision with such good restaurants within walking distance.

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Almoraduz Cocina Mexicana de Autor – OMG …… we ate here twice it was so good.  last year I also had back ribs here that I still dream about.

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Turtle Bay Cafe was also a real winner, this sesame crusted tuna was out of this world, and so were the prawns with saffron aioli.

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After day at the beach you just know you want a popsicle ….. we tried the lime, the strawberry with slices of kiwi and mango, and the fresh grated coconut popsicle, all were simply refreshingly perfect!

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I know, I know, the crowds are quite bothersome …..

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Thinking of this moment at home …. remembering the feel of the sun and the sound of the waves ….

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The nightly crib match kept Grant and Wilson competitive right to the trip home.

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Need a pick me up?  Juice water …. I love them all, from this pineapple water, to my all time favourite, green juice.

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Normally we eat at Mexican places ….. but the aromas drifting out of El Sultan finally dragged us in, and we had their chicken schawarma pita twice!  They make their own pitas fresh daily (about 4 times a day!) and it was fantastic.

The ultimate moment of the time spent in Puerto Escondido, of many fabulous moments, was the trip out to swim with bioluminescent plankton.  This is a spot you should visit after dark, preferably really dark, or raining.  Anything to avoid a bright moon.  A short drive from Puerto Escondido and you reach Laguna de Manialtepec, where boats are waiting.  Originally  the plankton was thought to be a curse by the fisherman when their nets were illuminated enough by the bioluminescence that the fish avoided them.  Only a short ten years later they no longer think of it as a curse as 20% of their income is derived from tourists to see this phenomenon.  If you are brave enough, you jump off the boat in darkness …. I wasn’t, but Grant, Vivian and Wilson sure did.  Once in the water the movement is totally illuminated by the plankton, and it is like your body is covered in sparkly jewels.  A few nibbling fish too …..   Another moment where I wish I could have taken a photo.

In many areas of the Pacific coast this is the time of year turtles come ashore to lay their eggs in droves.  We’ve participated in helping at sanctuaries, when the baby turtles are ready to make their journey to the sea, but this is the first time we have been around when the turtles make their way onto shore to begin that process.  It is pure magic.  Just take a moment to sit and watch the waves, and a turtle will suddenly appear, then another, then another.

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This entire beach is covered in mounds ….. how many turtle eggs are under those mounds is anybodies guess.  Each turtle lays between 80-150 eggs.

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With a determined pace they make their way up the beach.

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This same beach can see 2500 turtles appear on one night ….. and no, I didn’t take this particular photo, our driver had taken it on an earlier morning trip out there.  We went at dusk to watch them coming in.

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These poor mama turtles work so hard to get  up the beach, dig the hole with their hind flippers, drop in their eggs, cover them back up with sand and tamp the sand down.  It was amazing for us to watch the whole process, and listen to the sound of the weight she uses to tamp it all down.

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The eggs dropped out in singles and doubles until the hole was filled.  Once done, she makes her way back down the beach to return to the sea.

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We are usually in Mexico for the Revolution day parades, and they are so entertaining!

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Those dancers knew that Vivian and Wilson were tapping their feet, so they pulled them right into the street with them.

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Ahh, Puerto Escondido ….. love these beaches, the sunshine, the amazing food and I just know we’ll be back.

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Hasta la vista Puerto Escondido ……

Mexico City, revisited!

Mexico itself is a country full of contrasts, and truly evident in the city.  Grandiose architecture and magnificent art galleries alongside signs of poverty.  In that I am sure every major city in the world is similar.  What is very different are the smells – walking down any given street you have the contrast of delicious meat grilling, fresh cucumber being sliced or …….sewage.

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The contrasts between old church spires, modern buildings and electrical mayhem are everywhere!

If you haven’t been to Museo Soumaya yet, then please try to get there.  Built by Mexico’s wealthy Carlos Slim in honour of his wife the entire structure is amazing itself, but once you get in and have the opportunity to view the largest collection of art work you simply won’t believe it.  His son in law designed the place and it is as elaborate inside as out.  The different floors wind up along inside the building so you are either slanting in or out, depending on which floor you are on.  The displays change somewhat too, the last time we were here an entire floor was devoted to Sophia Loren.  Better still, it is free admission!

Sculptures by Rodin, paintings by Van Gogh, Renoir & Matisse to name a few, you can wander here for hours.

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The “Gates of Hell” was a particularly masterful piece, and just huge.

We were pretty fortunate to be in the city for longer than we have before so thoroughly enjoyed both eating out and touring art galleries and museums.  It is literally impossible to not eat well in Mexico City.  From spending mere pesos for a street taco to dining in one of the more elegant restaurants it is always less than we would spend at home and the food is fantastic.

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Try a roadside tostada, in this case shrimp ceviche.

Or – if you are fortunate enough to have a cozy place like we did, just pick up a rotisserie chicken for dinner.  This Columbian chicken dinner was 110 pesos, and fed us for 2 nights.  Not only that, it was incredibly delicious.  Under the skin they had rubbed an amazing herb blend and that skin was something Auntie Brigitte would have fought for ….

If you can’t find what you need at a mercado, then you either don’t need it, or you aren’t in the right mercado.  Smiling vendors are raring to sell you whatever you need, at a very reasonable price and guaranteed to make you smile too.

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In case you haven’t tried it ….. these large sheets below are pork fat.  Yep, pure pork fat fried up in all its goodness.  Mexicans eat it by the sheet, and as tasty as it is, we find a few crumbles on guacamole or in a soup are enough to hit the spot.

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Palacio de Bellas Artes – or the Fine Arts building.  Inside it is even more impressive with murals and incredible art galleries.  We have yet to make it to one of the traditional folk ballets they feature here, but one day ….

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Viewed from what was at one time the tallest building in the Americas, the Latin America building:

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Take the elevator to the top of the Latin America building and you just won’t believe how far you can see – particularly on a clear enough day when the smog isn’t too troublesome.

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Is there anything better than travel with family?  We think not!  Our youngest granddaughter Liv is already loving Mexico City as much as we do…

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Take some time at Chapultepec Park and Castle, well worth it to wander around, enjoy both the park and the walk up to the castle.

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These little guys are everywhere, hoping to catch the popcorn or peanut you drop.

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At the top of Chapultepec Park is the  Castle, as you can see not an especially brilliant day – smog combined with cool cloudy weather.

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Not sure if I was meant to live in a more elegant time or not, but I sure could have become accustomed to my bedroom and bathroom looking like this ….. Who am I kidding though, I would have been one of the servants!!  ha ha

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Imagine playing hopscotch or soccer inside these hallways … the stained glass is just incredible.

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Museum of Anthropology …… take a day.  In just over 3 hours we managed to view one side of the 3 you see here…. it is a touch overwhelming, but absolutely amazing and a must see.

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The reproductions of actual structures of ancient cities are so well done it is easy to imagine civilization as it was.  Just love the colours – and can picture how vivid the homes were.

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Amazing murals everywhere telling the stories of each civilization.

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And …. once you are worn out from walking your feet off (on this particular day we walked 13.3 kms….) it is entirely justified to stop and have a pastry … our favourite is La Boheme, situated next to Mercado Roma and serving up the most amazing pastries along with a perfectly Vivian size mug of hot chocolate.

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In Mexican culture, the mid day meal is very important … they linger over it, usually taking hours, and they certainly enjoy their alcoholic beverages along with it.  In fact, in a busy lunch spot like this, I think we were the only table without!

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Hungry for a light lunch or just a snack?  This tuna tostada is light, refreshing, and absolutely delicious. Contramar is one of the seafood restaurants in Mexico City that you must try to get in to.  Like many great places, they are only open for the main meal of the day, from noonish until 6ish.  Yes, that is how long lunch can be ….

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Oyster Bar in Mexico City?  Definitely!!  La Docena Oyster Bar has an impressive array of seafood choices and these oysters were so fresh and sweet we had 2 plates.  Incredibly delightful and this plate of raw oysters probably cost about the same as a small plate of chicken wings at home.  The crunchy oysters on top of the salad were a perfect crouton, and the sandwich a treat.

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Reforma is one of the busiest streets, and yet every Sunday morning they close it to vehicle traffic and it is full of Mexican families out exercising, bike riding, roller blading or doing dance classes.  Such a great idea, and I just wish we thought to do that in some of our major cities as well.

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Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera are much loved in all of Mexico, and the museums dedicated to their lives and art are plentiful.  This particular one is in San Angel, which is a beautiful neighbourhood in the city, very artsy and upscale.  Saturday market holds some of the most tempting pieces you will find anywhere.

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Every neighbourhood has a spot like this to sit and enjoy peace and quiet.

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The Frida and Diego museum is actually one of their former homes- in this case they each had their own home, created by an architect friend.  See the walkway above to join the two?  Small bedrooms but huge art studios! (Frida’s house was the blue one, no surprise there, given the Blue House Museum in Coyoacan)

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Time for another snack in the park ….

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Well, it’s taken me some time to get this blog on Mexico City completed, but it is time to move on to the beach at Puerto Escondido.  We always seem to find a lot to do in DF, so I’m sure we will be back.