Thanks to Incredible YOU!

Thanksgiving Contest - What Are You Thankful For?

On this Thanksgiving Day, I want to thank you!!!! You all are terrific! So many people are buying and selling tickets for the fundraiser “Chicken Breakfast”! We’ve already received dozens of bags of gently used clothing to hand out to those in need on Christmas, and the silent auction and Christmas Bazaar items are coming in, too.

A special shout-out to Post-n-Ship in the Golden Zone, where you can purchase tickets for the breakfast on December 12th and drop off any donations. Click on any photo below to enlarge it or view a caption.

Also a big special shout-out to Vecinos con Cariño. They are selling tickets, buying tickets, and they have donated a whole lot of stuff to help us bring joy to the nearly 3000 families we hope to feed on Christmas. For any of you looking for a meaningful charitable organization to join, I urge you to take a look at VCC. I am really impressed with the numerous worthwhile projects in which they are involved: schools programs, helping migrant families in Teacapán, and an upcoming inter-condo-complex competitive “Food Fight.” They also are making good on their vision to help other charitable organizations, including their aid to Desayuno de los Pollos, or the Chicken Breakfast/Christmas Eve morning handout of food and goodies to those in need.

More on VCC after the first of the year. For now, THANK YOU and Blessed Thanksgiving to all!

My Interview with the Queen of Sinaloan Cooking


“The Most Extensive Book on Mexican Culinary Arts”: Doña Cuca and her husband, Ernesto, in 1980.

In 2010 UNESCO honored traditional Mexican cuisine as the first and ONLY world cuisine to be named an Intangible World Heritage.* Cooking is part of the cultural identity of a community, and I’m more than happy to sacrifice myself to having to eat traditional Mexican food nearly every day!

Sinaloa, the state in which we live, is the food basket of Mexico—home to thousands of hectares of corn, chile, tomatoes, pork, beef, fish and all the fresh seafood your tastebuds might desire. Leave it to a Sinaloa native, then—Doña Cuca, or María del Refugio Fonseca de Cárdenas—to do us the favor of recording recipes that were traditionally handed down orally into the “most extensive book on Mexican culinary arts,” according to a national Mexican newspaper. Just think… that makes this woman, born in Guasave, who now lives in Mazatlán, author of an authoritative work on the only Intangible World Heritage cuisine!

Doña Cuca has taught thousands of Mexican women the art of cooking; her cookbook is a Bible for newly married women. Just ask your friends—they know her. Dozens if not hundreds of women have opened cocinas económicas using her recipes as their guide, so La Maestra has contributed to Mexico’s growing middle class, as well, enabling women to send their children to school with the money they earn.

I have long wanted to interview Doña Cuca, but she turns down cold most interview requests. She’s been known to say that at 85 “she’s had her day in the sun.” So what were the odds this strange gringa woman could score an interview with the icon of Mexican cooking?

Well, last week, my girlfriend brought the honest-to-goodness-best-pie-in-the-history-of-humanity to my house. I asked her about it, and she explained that she had gotten married at 18 and learned to cook from her mother-in-law; the pie was just one of many recipes she’d learned. Small world, but I found out that my friend Patty is related to Doña Cuca, so arranging to interview the Maestra was easy peasy! (Thank you, hermosa!)

I was intimidated going into our meeting; I had heard Doña Cuca could be a tough interview, and that she is quite the perfectionist. We were invited to her home, so I wanted to take a hostess gift. But I sure as heck wasn’t going to take any homemade snack or baked goods! Flowers, maybe? I settled on a scented candle.

What a joy our afternoon turned out to be! Doña Cuca has such a spark, and my oh my does she have the charm! She welcomed Patty and me into her home where she regaled us with stories that ranged from the ribald to the heartwarming. She brought out photos, clippings, letters, and, of course, some fresh juice and snacks. As if that weren’t enough, she gifted us signed copies of her book, first published in 1980 and now in its 21st printing!

Doña Cuca told me she’s loved cooking since she was seven years old. She was fortunate to learn from her grandmother, her mother, and the wonderful cook at her grandparents’ hacienda in Guasave, which led us to her first earthy story. As a pre-teen, Doña Cuca was jealous of the large bosoms she saw on the cook and her daughters. She asked them how they got such big breasts. “From milling the corn!” they exclaimed. Obviously they were clever women, as their response got Doña Cuca to take over grinding the corn for quite some time before she figured out it didn’t help her breasts grow bigger!

At her grandparents’ hacienda Refugio learned the importance of fresh produce, meat and cheeses, and that simple cooking with quality ingredients is often the best. She got married and had five children. The family lived in Mexico City and Ciudad Obregón, but after serious financial setbacks, they ended up back in Guasave. There Doña Cuca started El Instituto de Seguridad Social: para el bienestar de la familia with two girlfriends. As part of that effort she often taught cooking classes in the ejidos. She remembers that she’d take notes about the many cooking techniques shared by the housewives of the area during her classes. Years later she conducted research in 18 municipalities of Sinaloa, focusing on the traditional recipes. That book, with sets of 100 recipes for seafood, beef, chicken, gourmet food, etc., will be published in January, 2016 under the title, Colache: Para Mis Pequeñas Cocineras.

La Maestra told me her favorite fish is corvina, and she likes it on las brasas: cooked over an open fire. She told me the traditional way to make pescado zarandeado, that emblematic Mazatlecan dish, is to barbecue it over an open fire with only salt. The salsas and the vegetables (tomatoes, onions, green peppers) should be served separately.

Some of the typical Sinaloan dishes that we talked about included chilorio, machaca, and chorizo. I asked if some of these weren’t more typically Sonoran, but she replied that Sinaloa has always had great beef, too, and that many of these recipes date to before statehood, even to prehispanic times. The one that really stood out for me were the enchiladas del suelo—enchiladas of the floor! I read one newspaper account about how these very enchiladas, made by Doña Cuca, had been the hit of a huge society party in Guadalajara, given by the famous enchilada maker La Güera del Mercadito Vizcaíno, thus taking the limelight away from the hostess. Doña Cuca told me that enchiladas del suelo, along with el asado Sinaloense, are very typical, traditional dishes of this region. They were often served at parties (parrandas) and serenades, and were an alternative to menudo at the closing of a dance. She promised to teach me how to make them, and I am sure hoping to hold her to that invitation!

What about one of her heartwarming stories? Like any grandmother, it involves a grandchild; in this case, Ana Carola Cárdenas. Ana took after her grandmother, but in Ana’s case her love of cooking took her to study it in Europe. Grandma proudly showed me Ana Carola’s article, some photos of her culinary arts teacher, and the chair in which her children and grandchildren grew up enjoying her terrific cooking.

I feel honored and very lucky to have met and had the chance to interview this fine woman, and I am also extremely grateful to her for working so hard to keep our traditions alive. I look forward to using her book and doing my part in turn!


*Yes, French gastronomy was honored as well, but it was for the French custom of eating together, the serving of courses, etc.—not for the food itself.

Chicken Breakfast/Desayuno de Pollos: Main


Kids charming the camera woman while they line up for candy!

Want to have the best Christmas ever? Join us to bring joy to those in need! It’s a whole lot of fun, and a memory you will never forget!

Since 1990, Yolanda Medina and her family from the Quince Letras area of town have spearheaded an effort to feed those in need at Christmas time. In 2014, we fed over 2500 families with your help!

What is the “Chicken Breakfast?”
It is a two-step process to feed the neediest in our community.

First is a fundraising breakfast held in early December to raise money to buy one whole chicken and ten days’ worth of food for each family—we buy for as many families as we possibly can.

Second, on Christmas Eve morning (24 December), dozens of us gather together to load trucks and go out to the invasiones, the poorest, “squatter” areas of Mazatlán, to make people happy and hand out the goods! We give the chickens and foodstuffs, plus gently used clothing, linens, shoes, coats, and new toys and candy.

It is important to know that several of us go out to the squatter areas the week before Christmas. There we meet with area leaders and go around with them to hand out tickets, to ensure that those in need receive what they need, and that no one cheats or “double dips.” We especially want to ensure that we get food and clothes to the elderly and the disabled, so we go door to door to make sure everyone knows about the event, and to make plans to get things to those who can’t walk to the delivery site.

The history:

Yolanda Medina’s daughter, María Yolanda, was very sick. She and her husband kept vigil in the hospital, taking care of all their daughter’s needs. As Yoly’s sister-in-law Isa tells the story:

“It was Christmas Eve 1990, and María Yolanda’s days were counted. Yolanda and her late husband, Modesto, were in no mood to eat, let alone have a Christmas Dinner with all the fixings. But that night, a woman knocked on the hospital room door and peeked to see if there was someone with the patient. She came in to hand Yolanda and Modesto a box with a hot Christmas Dinner meal — and told them Merry Christmas and that God was with them. Yolanda never forgot that gesture.

After María Yolanda passed away, Yolanda got us all together and told us what had happened. So, the first couple of years, we had culinary arts students volunteer their time to prepare a Christmas Dinner meal, with donated ingredients from friends and family, and all of us volunteered to fill disposable thermal boxes with the hot dinners, load them into cars and pick-up trucks, and off we went, to hospitals, traffic intersections, parks — wherever we thought we might find people that, for one reason or another, wouldn’t be privy to a nice Christmas Dinner.

However, this was a huge effort, and very expensive, so we couldn’t cover that much ground. So we thought in terms of something more practical, something that could be cooked and prepared at home. This way, we could make sure many more families could have a Christmas Dinner. That’s when we started the Desayuno de los Pollos.”

How to help:

  1. Buy (or sell) tickets for the fundraising breakfast. Contact me at, or buy them from anyone selling them around town. Post and Ship in the Golden Zone (beside Dolce Mami, across from FedEx) will have tickets also.
  2. Download a poster you can print out to help sell tickets or collect donations. Write on the poster with your details.
  3. Make crafts or baked goods to be sold at the bazaar during the breakfast.
  4. Donate (or gather) items for the silent auction (download a gift certificate, artwork, restaurant meals, hotel stays, airfares…)
  5. Help set up, cook, serve or clean up after the breakfast.
  6. Donate money (in person or click on the link), gently used clothing, diapers, lightly worn shoes, linens, blankets coats, new toys, or candy. 100% goes to those in need. Post and Ship will be happy to collect items if you drop them off there (beside Dolce Mami, across from FedEx).
  7. Help pack the food into packets—the week before Christmas.
  8. Help us load the trucks and deliver the goodies on December 24th! This is, of course, the most fun and a terrific tradition with friends and family.

When and where is the breakfast?
In 2015, it’s on Saturday December 12th, 8:30-10:30 am in the cruise ship dock/API. Please join us and bring all your friends! Your 170 peso ticket includes a full homemade breakfast, coffee and juice, a ticket for the door prize, a ticket for the raffle, and access to the Christmas bazaar.

How can I get to Quince Letras on December 24th?
Come by 6:30 am if you are driving a truck, 7:00 am if you are helping us load and deliver. We usually finish by 11:30 or noon, but some years it’s taken longer (depends how many routes you participate in).

Quince Letras, corner of Tampico and Francisco Villas streets We load from either side of this

Quince Letras, corner of Tampico and Francisco Villas streets We load from either side of this “Coca Cola” store on the corner

LOCATION: 15 (QUINCE) LETRAS, corner of Francisco Villa and Tampico, just down the hill from the Church of Cristo Rey (Christ the King—photo below).

  1. From Avenida del Mar turn East at the Fisherman’s Monument.
  2. Go to the first light and turn right.
  3. Proceed one block and turn left (Francisco Villa street, just before the Pemex station).
  4. Go two blocks.
  5. If you are NOT driving a truck or transporting supplies, please park in the next block. This will give us room for loading. Once you’ve parked, walk another block down, past the iron works business called “Quince Letras.” On the corner of Francisco Villa and Tampico you will see a small store with a bright red “Coca Cola” hand painted on the outside, across from a tortillería. A door next to the Cocheras Automaticas business will be open. That’s Yolanda’s mother’s house, and it’s from there that we’ll be loading.
  6. If you are driving a truck or transporting supplies, please drive up to Tampico street (the “Coca Cola” store on your right on the corner), turn right, and park. We will be loading right there.

IMG_0669If you can’t find it, just ask someone for “Quince Letras” or “Desayuno de los Pollos/Medina family.” Everyone in the area will know.

Merry Christmas to all! And see you there!

  1. Download a poster you can print out to help sell tickets or collect donations. Thank you for your help!
  2. Download and view or use a PowerPoint presentation with a full explanation of the project: chicken-breakfast-presentation
  3. Download a gift certificate to fill out, and we’ll advertise your business or service at the breakfast! Just contact us and we’ll pick it up!

Have questions? Contact the organizers:

  • Jorge Medina (speaks English well) on his mobile, (669) 110-0744
  • Yolanda Medina (some English) at (669) 431-4529

Starlight Star Bright

DSC_0573©Like this photo of a starry night over Deer Island, with a splash from an ocean wave thrown in for good measure? I know I do! (You can click on it or any photo in this post to view it much larger.)

Last night I went out with a new photography partner and he taught me how to use the “intervalometer” on my Nikon. He had already been experimenting with taking photos of the night sky, and advised me to set my ISO to its highest, adjust my white balance, open my aperture as far as it’ll go, and set the speed to eight seconds. Sounds very simple, but it was amazing! The photo below, of the trees on Deer Island, is taken from the beach in front of El Quijote Inn in pitch blackness—my eyes couldn’t even see the island, yet look at that detail and color in the pic!


My partner explained to me that the human eye could actually see this and much more, but our eyes are set to “video mode.” Isn’t he brilliant? The other really cool thing he said is that my camera’s aperture controls depth of field, speed controls flow or movement, and ISO controls graininess. Why don’t photography sites and teachers speak in terms like this? How simple and accurate is that description, I ask you?

Obviously I was thrilled with my camera’s capabilities; there is most definitely a whole computer inside, just waiting for me to figure out how to use it. There was a lot of light on the beach, and a party going on with a laser light show, so that obviously interfered with picture quality (or added interest; your call). I also had some fun taking photos of the lights from the restaurants playing in the waves.

I was so excited that I spontaneously woke up about 4:00 this morning, and set my camera up out on the terrace. Living here on the malecón, there was way too much ambient light to take star pics over the island or the city, so I pointed the camera up at the sky. And, I caught TWO shooting stars! I also made my first time-lapse movie! It’s cool to watch how the stars move over the course of two hours. Take a look, below:

My new mentor encouraged me to make a star trail. I did so, using the very same images as you see in the video above. The photo below shows you the lines the stars followed over two hours:

Star Trail Nov 9 2015©

I then changed my shot to look out over the city, and filmed a time-lapse of the sunrise. I like it, too, and I hope you will. Yes, I now see that my lens needs cleaning; a little late! I could have photographed longer, but we needed to get hiking the lighthouse before starting work!

We are thinking to start a photography club here in town. It would be bilingual (Spanish and English), and we’d take turns being in charge of new techniques to teach or excursions to arrange. If you’re interested, please contact me. Thanks!

Mazatlán Photo Calendars are Out!


Photographers whose works are in the calendar: Lenny, Beverly, Dianne and John, with Dee Hulen from Sonrisas in yellow in the center. Missing is Lloyd.

Sonrisas, the small group of powerful expatriate women who give scholarships to outstanding students, has just published their third “photos of Mazatlán” calendar. I am once again proud to be included in this very worthwhile effort. Be sure to get your calendars, and those you want to give as gifts, quickly. They always run out long before Christmas!

Yesterday afternoon (Friday) was the launch party at Macaw’s downtown, just prior to ArtWalk. On hand were some of the women in the group, as well as all but one of the photographers. Photographers with works in the Sonrisas calendar this year include Beverly Kreutzer (the cover), Lenny Wollitz, Dianne Hofner Saphiere, John Kirsch, and Lloyd Goldstein. Click a photo below to enlarge it.

The Sonrisas group has been around for about ten years, though several of these ladies have lived in Mazatlán for decades. The group includes Lynn Hopkins de Hernández, Dee Hulen, Judith Wolfberg, Kathy Thompson, Marg Deane, Valerie Byrd, Lena Brown, Trish Kenison, Tish Loeppke, Claire Robertson, and Diane Hoover.

They have helped students get a good education, sponsoring academically-talented youngsters from elementary school clear through, for outstanding scholars, to university. They are even sponsoring one student who is currently studying abroad in Valparaiso, Chile!

Each lady contributes money to the scholarship fund, and they also conduct fundraising activities such as the calendar, bi-annual trips to a spa north of town or to Guadalajara/Tonalá and Tlaquepaque to go shopping; they’ve made and sold handmade greeting cards, and they used to have a large garage sale, as well.

The calendars contain 14 months (November 2015-January 2017), are bilingual, and list Mexican, Canadian and US American holidays—and this year they have a hole for hanging! They cost only 100 pesos each. Calendars are available at:

  • Twisted Mamas in the Golden Zone
  • Cafe Playa Sur downtown

Dee Hulen will be at Macaws every Friday from 4-6 pm till mid-December or till the calendars are sold out (they printed 600 this year). Group members will also be selling calendars at Rico’s and Looney Bean.

For more information please canemail Dee Hulen or Lynne Hopkins.