Category Archives: Holidays

Mexican Mother’s Day

My mother – Barbara Zuniga – pregnant with me. I think this photo was taken late 1958 or very early 1959.

Today is Mother’s Day…in Mexico!  It’s always on May 10th, unlike in the US where it falls on the 2nd Sunday in May.  Living in the states…we have always celebrated Mother’s Day on the 2nd Sunday but this year I was aware of more posts than usual from my Mexican friends on social media.

It made me think about Mother’s day celebrations in Mexico, so I did a little googling this afternoon to see what I could find out about Mexico’s celebration.  In truth, it’s much identical to the US celebration – children honor their mothers with gifts of flowers and food on this day, much like we will do on Sunday here in the US.  Restaurant reservations are at an all time high – just like here.  Looking back on the origins of the day are rather interesting though.

In 1922 the idea of having Mother’s Day in Mexico was brought into the country from the US with mixed reviews.  However, it is said that the government, media and Catholic Church got involved and set the date as May 10.  In 1940, the wife of Mexico’s President Manuel Avilla Camacho declared May 10th a holiday and made it a state sponsored celebration.  An interesting custom emerged from this too from the government.  Disadvantaged women were invited to stores to pick a free gift.  In 1942, the government did something even more interesting.  They returned the sewing machines to women who had pawned them and then were unable to repay the loans.  This cost the pawn market approximately $160,000!  It was seen as a great gift though since these women used the sewing machines to help provide for their families.  This was reported in Time Magazine.

The box of photos my sister and I went through last fall at her home in North Carolina – many of these photos I had never seen before. I believe the box belonged to my late Aunt Gail – my mother’s sister.

Today though…I’m thinking of my mother and the life she has lived.  I’ll do this again on Sunday when we have lunch together, but today I’m getting a head start if you will.  When I visited my sister, Kanista, last year in North Carolina, she pulled out a box of old pictures to go through together.  There were several photos I had never seen before.  One in particular was of mom at an event in Cambodia – pregnant with me.  She had on a cute two piece maternity outfit with her hair pulled back and wore cute little sandals.  There were people dancing in the background having a good time.  I know my dad took this photo of her.  She’s smiling and looking off  into the distance.  I wish I knew exactly how far along she was in this photo…how soon I would make my appearance.

People always tell me I look like my mother…it’s such a compliment because when I look at photos like this, she is just so beautiful to me.  Still is…  Feliz día de las Madres!

Me and Mom – Mother’s day last year – 2016

Day of the Dead Décor – It’s Everywhere!

img_1320-1Every fall I look forward to discovering new Day of the Dead/Dia de los Muertos items to add to my growing collection.  This year it seems stores had their items out even earlier than usual.

The first place I always hit is World Market.  Usually, they have quite a huge spread of items but this year the collection wasn’t as large.  Mind you, this is always my “go-to” place for DOD items so in fairness, it could be that I’ve collected most of their items already!  At any rate, over the course of 3 visits, I picked up some cute things including a Mariachi skeleton pillow, sugar skull measuring cups, sugar skull measuring spoons, 2 sugar skull nutcrackers and two ornaments – one sugar skull and one hot sauce bottle!  I haven’t checked other stores in my area to see if they have a more robust collection in their stores…there is still time and I may do that, but I really do love the things I’ve picked up so far.

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Sugar skull measuring spoons and measuring “skulls” from World Market.

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Mariachi pillow from World Market! So cute!

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img_1317 img_1316 img_1315Target is another place to pick up cute DOD items.  This year, their selection was also a little limited.  Again, I think I bought everything they had last year, including a door wreath which will go up on my front door the last weekend in October.  I bought a sugar skull vinyl tablecloth along with a DOD banner and a sugar skull dog statue.  The tablecloth reminds me of the beautiful colorful Mexican vinyl tablecloths that my cousins always use in their decorating.  On another trip, I found a sugar skull cup and a kit to make sugar skull pumpkins.  I bought two pumpkins over the weekend for Halloween decorating so I’ll convert those using the kits this weekend.

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img_1313 img_1312Finally, last week I was in Michaels and saw an adorable DOD door wreath.  I considered buying it as I walked through the store and then I turned down an aisle and found an entire display of DOD items!  It would have been easy to go nuts and add everything to my cart but I took a deep breath and selected just a few things – a DOD “coffin”, 6 small sugar skull plates and a Catrina statue – an iconic DOD item that is seen every year at the local DOD Festival in downtown Birmingham!

Honestly…it seems as though you can find DOD and Sugar Skull items all over the place these days.  I always look forward to pulling out all my stored items as I prepare to make my annual altars and decorate my house.  I think this year I’ll need to add another storage container for all my new items!

Do you have any favorite DOD items?  If so, please share them with me.  I would love to see them and know what you do to celebrate Day of the Dead!

Warm Up Your Christmas with a little Coquito!

Coquito - Puerto Rican eggnog - is a tradition at Christmas time!

Coquito – Puerto Rican eggnog – is a tradition at Christmas time!

Coquito…it’s a cool word to say, isn’t it?  Well, it’s even better in a glass over ice!

Coquito [koh-kee-toh] – is Puerto Rican eggnog and it’s delicious!  It’s made with rum, coconut milk, sweet condensed milk, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves.  Some people add eggs and others don’t – it’s a personal preference here.  You’ll find coquito being served and enjoyed around Christmas each year.  It’s in high demand!

There are a number of recipes you can find online but I must confess, I’ve never tried to make coquito.  I lived in Puerto Rico from ages 7-12, so I was a bit young for this drink!  But I did know about it’s popularity.  I had some at a friend’s pig roast several years ago and was hooked.  Still, I didn’t try to make my own.  Then recently, I found out that a friend of mine, Luis Delgado, was making coquito and selling it by the bottle!  I got to know Luis several years ago when his restaurant – Miami Cafe – was a food vendor at Fiesta, the Hispanic and cultural event I have worked with for the past 13 years.   Miami Cafe in Alabaster served up everything from Cuban sandwiches to chicken wings with a Carribean flair.  His food was wonderful and I enjoyed eating at his little place the few times I was able to go.  Luis’ love of cooking comes from his grandmother as a little boy growing up in Puerto Rico.  He was always asking her questions about how to make different recipes and she gladly shared everything with her grandson.  He carried this love of cooking to Miami before eventually moving to Birmingham.  At the urging of friends who loved his food, he opened Miami Cafe.  Since his restaurant closed, he is now catering.  I attended an event at Birmingham International Center (BIC) a few months ago about doing business in Cuba and as I glanced at the food, I knew immediately it was Luis’ cuisine!

Back to the Coquito…I tried Luis’ coquito just last night and OMGEEEEE!!!!!  Believe me when I tell you that it’s to die for!  I poured it in a bigger glass than normal – you usually use a shot glass – so that I could share it with my husband.  I took one long sip and swooned, it was so good!  Then I handed the glass over to my husband.  After one sip he wouldn’t give it back to me!  So much for sharing!

If you are in the Birmingham area and you are interested in buying a bottle of this deliciousness, contact Luis Delgado on Facebook and place your order and let him know you read about it on Southern Senora blog.  Coquito is $35 a bottle and well worth it to enjoy with your family.  Of course, after one glass you might not WANT to share!

A glass of coquito garnished with two cinnamon sticks! Best served over ice and sipped in front of a Christmas tree!

A glass of coquito garnished with two cinnamon sticks! Best served over ice and sipped in front of a Christmas tree!

Turkey Leftover Makeover

IMG_0510So…what do YOU do with your turkey leftovers?  In the past we’ve just divided everything up with the family and had turkey sandwiches or re-heated the entire meal for the next day at lunch or dinner.

This year, our family gathering on Thanksgiving day was smaller and we had an awful lot of leftover food in the fridge!  It’s hard to watch it go to waste on Saturday, especially when my son decided to go out to eat with friends and my youngest daughter was in Auburn for the Iron Bowl game!

Eddie and I were at home together finishing up some cleaning and decorating when the game began at 2:30 p.m.  As we watched the game, I decided we needed to do a little something different with the turkey and not just heat it up – blah!  Boring!  I remembered a Pampered Chef ham wreath recipe I had used many years ago.  I looked it up online but couldn’t find the exact recipe so I used what I found as a basis and just made the rest up as I went along.

Getting the ingredients to the turkey wreath ready...

Getting the ingredients to the turkey wreath ready…

I chopped up 2 cups of turkey, added 2 stalks of chopped celery, half a chopped onion, and grated parmesan cheese (I only had half a bag so used it all).  After mixing it all together, I added mayo – enough to get things to stick together, and also mustard to give it a little color – and finally, salt and pepper.  I would have preferred to use Dijon mustard but I haven’t had any in my fridge for ages.  (Note to self…buy some Dijon mustard!  My friend and chef, Nick Hartmann likes to add Dijon to steak!)

Filling is ready...now to get the Pillsbury crescent rolls positioned...

Filling is ready…now to get the Pillsbury crescent rolls positioned…

Next I took a can of Pillsbury crescent rolls (8 total) and arranged them in a star design – with the large part in the center on a cookie sheet.  This is always a little tricky to me because they aren’t necessary the same size and when you see how it’s done in a photo…well, it’s perfect and that’s just ridiculous!  I used to make the ham wreath every year at Christmas and it was NEVER perfect!  After this was done – as perfectly as I could make it – I added the turkey filling by large spoonful.  Finally, I wrapped the thin part over the mixture covering as much as possible.

Crescent rolls are arranged in a star design with the large end in the center.  It never looks as perfect as it does in the pictures...

Crescent rolls are arranged in a star design with the large end in the center. It never looks as perfect as it does in the pictures…

I cooked the wreath in a preheated over set at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.  I would have liked to have added cranberries to give the wreath a little hint of sweetness, but my husband doesn’t like cranberries that much.  I had leftover cranberry sauce from Thursday so I just added it next to my portion once the wreath was ready to devour.  So good with a buttery chardonnay!

Mission accomplished!  Big thumbs up from the husby…leftover makeover was a success!

Finishing Touches Day

Ornaments from my mother in their original boxes - I like to decorate with these each year by simply placing them in crystal/glass bowls.

Ornaments from my mother in their original boxes – I like to decorate with these each year by simply placing them in crystal/glass bowls.

Yesterday I spent the entire day getting our house decorated for Christmas.  At times it can be a little overwhelming with all the boxes and decorations all over the place.  But I remind myself that this is my day to get it all together and the day is long!  Plus, I have those sappy Hallmark movies to keep me going!

O the Saturday after all this decorating takes place, I work on the finishing touches.  Things like bows on lamps, centerpieces on the tables and hand towels in the kitchen and powder room.  Another favorite things to do is to pull out all the ornaments from my mom that she collected from before I was born and simply put them on display in crystal bowls.

This is one of my favorite of the old ornamets...beautiful detail!

This is one of my favorite of the old ornamets…beautiful detail!

Decorating doesn’t have to be complicated and this is one of the things that makes me the happiest each year when I add the finishing touches.  First of all, I love that the ornaments are still in the original boxes.  You can still see the prices on the boxes.  I have three boxes of “Shiny Brite” ornaments…mind you, not all the ornaments are original to these boxes but they are definitely old ornaments that we used to use when I was little.  (Did I just say “old” in reference to myself?!  Yikes!)  These boxes have a 49 cent price tag on them.  And who remembers Woolworth’s store?  The box I have for a few more ornaments has a $1.49 price tag on it.  These are called “imported tree ornaments” – but I don’t see “where” they were imported.  Regardless, it’s still nice to have this box.  I love to put them all in a large crystal bowl and set them on my coffee table in my living room each year.  I always tell my kids about the ornaments and of course, when they were little they used to roll their eyes a bit…  Now, I think they are paying more attention to these things and why they are important to me and our family history.

Shiny Brite ornament box with the 49 cent price tag stamped on the box.

Shiny Brite ornament box with the 49 cent price tag stamped on the box.

To preserve these memories a little bit more, I’ve put some of the smaller ornaments – chipped paint and all – in shadow boxes.  One box has small ornaments that my mother used to use to decorate her hutch every year.  She would put these small ornaments into glasses all over the hutch and I always loved how creative she got with the decorating.  She was (and is) so good at “merchandising” as they say in the retail world.  I also have a shadow box with small ornaments from my grandmother (Louise Stone) and my aunt Gail (Gail Stone Thomas).  I love putting these boxes out each year.  It’s a great way to display a part of your family holiday history.  Finally, I have a small egg shaped vase in my corner curio with ornaments from my great-grandmother – Maude Weaver – on display.  The paint on these ornaments is almost all chipped off but it adds quite a bit of antique character to the them…

Small ornaments that my mother (first shadow box) used on her hutch each year and ornaments that my aunt and grandmother (second box) used in their Christmas decorating.

Small ornaments that my mother (first shadow box) used on her hutch each year and ornaments that my aunt and grandmother (second box) used in their Christmas decorating.

Finally, the one shadow box that makes me a bit nostalgic is the one I created with ornaments that were about to be thrown out after my mother-in-law (Johnnie Odom) passed away.  All her sons were cleaning out her house and there was a box of ornaments that she had put aside with a handwritten note saying – “some ornaments the 5 girls might want to keep.”  By this time, all the girls had gone through everything and picked out what they wanted.  When my brother-in-law Allen showed me the box, I told him I would take them.  I mean, there were several things I remembered vividly from her annual Christmas tree – the star she used at the top of the tree, the plastic snowman and Santa Claus, the felt reindeer…these aren’t expensive ornaments by any means.  But they are priceless to me and now my children.  It’s amazing how different things look when you preserve them in a special way…like in a shadow box.  The Christmas after Johnnie passed, I displayed the shadow box and all the grandkids loved it.  Plus, I added her handwritten note to the box.  Their reaction made me feel like I had done something good for them and I love displaying it each year.

Ornaments that my mother-in-law - Johnnie Odom - used on her tree.  These were about to be discarded but I couldn't let that happen.  Included in the box is a handwritten note about these ornaments to her 5 granddaughters...

Ornaments that my mother-in-law – Johnnie Odom – used on her tree. These were about to be discarded but I couldn’t let that happen. Included in the box is a handwritten note about these ornaments to her 5 granddaughters…

Meanwhile…finished touches day is just about over…and tomorrow we decorate our family tree to round everything out.

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Christmas Decorating and Hallmark Movies

My Mexican Christmas tree...before I started adding ornaments this year!

My Mexican Christmas tree…before I started adding ornaments this year!

The day after Thanksgiving is my day to get the Odom home into the Christmas spirit!  With Eddie’s help, we brought down all the boxes in the attic that I planned to use this year.

A few years ago, I took a bit of time after the new year and organized my Christmas boxes and labeled everything by room.  This makes it easy to get the decorating done and also pack everything back up after new yeas.  I also have quite a few boxes of things I’ve used over the years but I’m not ready to part with yet.  Who knows?  Maybe my kids will want to use some of these things at some point.  We shall see…

I always start in the family room with the mantle.  Luckily, Eddie was still hanging around and was able to help me with lights on the mantle greenery.  The pre-lit garland decided it was done but I’m liking the strand of lights I replaced it with because the light seem brighter and there are more of them.  After that, Eddie went off to work on his “to-do” list and I was left with Hallmark Christmas movies and the rest of the decorating.

The mantle is decorated and Hallmark Christmas movies are on the TV...

The mantle is decorated and Hallmark Christmas movies are on the TV…

It’s become another tradition for me to watch all those sappy Hallmark Christmas movies as I’m decorating.  Honestly…you can predict the outcome to every single one and yet I cry at the end of them all!  It’s just like the those Hallmark commercials…they get me every time!

The only thing I changed up a bit this year was my Mexican Christmas tree.  I’ve bought quite a few new items this year and so I decided to retire a few older items.  I added the grab bag ornaments I found thrifting recently.  I also added all the tin ornaments I bought in Austin, Texas recently.  I bought a few sugar skull items at Sojourns in Birmingham a few weeks ago…they went on the tree too.  A few older items are a must every year, especially the crosses and my Virgen de Guadalupe ornament.  Mexican Santa ornament and my Christopher Radko -Feliz Navidad ornament (a gift from a friend) are always on the tree.  It’s the one tree I generally decorate myself so I take my time and enjoy the process.

Sunday night we decorate the family tree with the entire family – and we only decorate with Hallmark ornaments.  I guess you could say Hallmark is in our blood!  Another tradition…

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Turkey Day 2015

My first Thanksgiving turkey and stuffing - all by myself!

My first Thanksgiving turkey and stuffing – all by myself!

I have a confession to make…this is the first year that I’ve prepared an entire Thanksgiving meal by myself.  Yep…that’s right!  I’ve never in all my life done this…but this year I decided it was time.

We had already celebrated Thanksgiving with the extended Odom family last Saturday.  My brother-in-law, Terry, did the honors where the cooking was concerned.  We brought the “big” cookie and some great wine.  Before my sister-in-law passed away, she and my other sister-in-law typically did all the cooking.  We had quite a banter going back and forth about the food.  They would tease me because I didn’t cook and so I was always given the task of bringing the drinks and desserts.  This usually consisted of pies from Costco.  (FYI – This was before the big cookie made it’s appearance in recent years.)  I joked that my culinary expertise was so great that I had sold my pie recipe to Costco so why should I make them when I could buy them!  In reality, I told them one year not too long ago, that it didn’t make sense for me to cook since they were both so good at it!  It was the truth too, not just a line to get out of doing the work.  Their Thanksgiving menu was always fabulous!

Over the past few years, I’ve wanted to learn more about how to make our Zuniga traditional Thanksgiving meal – in particular the turkey and stuffing – so I asked my mother to teach me and my daughters what to do.  I took pictures of the process and also wrote the directions down – which I can’t seem to find now.  She loved doing this with us and we a blast learning her method of cooking.  Anyway, my mother went to Chicago this year to be with my sister and her family and since Eddie and I were going to be home with two of our three kids this Thanksgiving, we decided to get a turkey and make a traditional meal.  Rather, he bought the turkey and “I” made the traditional meal!

Deviled eggs...a little mayo, mustard and sweet pickle relish.  Delish!

Deviled eggs…a little mayo, mustard and sweet pickle relish. Delish!

I made the stuffing (or dressing) and stuffed the bird close to midnight last night.  I had enough for a casserole dish of dressing on the side.  I also made deviled eggs because these are a staple at every Thanksgiving meal!  The heavenly aroma of turkey woke me up early and my husband nudged me out of bed so I could check on the bird and turn the oven off.  We got up to make breakfast for the family – my daughter Anna Marie and her new hubby Ryan came by for French toast before heading out-of-town this afternoon.  While they were here, I made the other preparations… peeled potatoes, got the mac and cheese ready, green beans and almonds in a pan and finally, took a shot at making giblet gravy.  It was a little thick (I think I used too much flour), but it did the trick and everyone seemed to enjoy it on their food.

Enough food for an army!

Enough food for an army!

My brother-in-law and sister-law, Allen and Rhonda came over to join us for our Thanksgiving meal.  It was a small group but it was really nice and relaxing once we got our plates fixed and sat at the dining room table to eat, talk, laugh and share stories.

Pumpkin pie and apple/cranberry pie were the dessert choices.  I’ll have one of each please with a little whipped cream!  It was a great day and I’m tired now but it’s a good tired.  I feel great about being able to make this wonderful meal for my family and we have plenty of leftovers for tomorrow and the weekend!

Happy Thanksgiving y’all!  I hope you and your family had a wonderful day together too!

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