April 28, 2010

The egg assembly line

bantam hens, La Ceiba, HondurasAren't they cute little hard workers?

I rule my flock with an iron fist. "Produce! Or else!" is my motto. Or else what? You don't want to find out.

Pffft. Yeah, right. Don't let the photo fool you. Al contrario! My chickens have me so well trained that I cook for them. El Jefe swears that his family had better not find out about that!

We've had our egg supply ups and downs for the past couple of months. I have six hens of egg-laying age (and five more who soon will be). A good month went by with nary an egg to be found. Then we had a new load of wood shavings spread around for mulch, including the empty built-in jardinera in the photo above. The hens loved it. More comfortable digs is what they were waiting for. Eggs started appearing the day after the mulch did.

SIX eggs a day! At last, I thought, my visions of generously gifting farm-fresh, organic eggs to friends and neighbors was about to come to fruition.

But no, the egg bounty was short-lived. Three or four days later, the count went to three eggs a day, then one, then none.

Then three of the hens decided to go broody at the same time, even though they had no eggs to sit on. I bothered them enough that they gave up after a few days, but it still takes them awhile to recuperate and start laying again.

eggs, La Ceiba, HondurasI didn't want to bother them too much because I want them to use this jardinera and feel safe there. It is protected from the rain and dogs and very convenient to collect the eggs from.

About 10 days had gone by with no eggs when we left for Utila. While searching for treasure on the beach, I discovered an egg shaped piece of coral. When we came back, I put it in the nesting box and Wallah! We started getting three eggs a day again.

Check it out for a closer look. The size and shape is perfect! Of course, one of these same hens was sitting on two flat, grey rocks a couple of months ago.

real and fake coral egg, La Ceiba, Honduras
Now three more of the hens have decided to go broody again and they are fighting over who gets to sit on the rock.

I've been trying unsuccessfully to catch Pancho the rooster to get a photo of his foot − but that says something in itself, doesn't it? He is doing great, not even limping anymore.

Sorry....I have to go now. I think my chickens are calling for their afternoon snack and I don't want to be late.

April 24, 2010

La Gringa went to paradise

beach, Utila, Honduras

It was only supposed to be a quick two day trip but I couldn't come back! I ended up staying five days and it was the best, most relaxing time I've had in loooooong time. No phone, no television, no news, no internet. I even left my computer at home. I'll admit that I had a few twinges of withdrawal the first day or two, but after that....nah! Didn't even think of it.

Where was this paradise? It was the island of Utila, Honduras, an hour ferry ride from La Ceiba. Our friends had been inviting us to join them for ages but we could just never get away for various reasons. This time we did and we hope to be going back soon!

I had seen photos of the house before, but seeing it in person was a different thing. The house just exudes tropical relaxation. I just kept walking around saying, "Oh my God! Oh my God! I love it!" El Jefe really got into the fishing and we both had fun snorkeling over the reef. The water was the absolute perfect temperature.

bedroom, Utila, HondurasLook at "our" bedroom!

Utila, HondurasLook at this porch!

beach, Utila, HondurasLook at this beach!

Big Rock Beach, Utila, HondurasLook at my friends' coral-studded, reef-surrounded beach!

Pelican, Utila, HondurasLook at this pelican!

coral from Utila, HondurasLook at my treasures!

I came back with over 200 photos plus a bunch of videos. I guess that I have just been intimidated about trying to figure out how to share them, or at least some of them, with you.
Or possibly, Utila had me so relaxed that I couldn't get back into the blogging groove.

I'll be back soon with more photos, but while I try to figure out how to organize and pick out the best ones, let me leave you with this taste of paradise:

Did you see the low clouds in the distance? That is the cloud forest over La Ceiba. From Utila, the mountains around La Ceiba look huge. There was one day that we could see the mountains clearly but I failed to get a photo. Maybe next time....

April 7, 2010

La Gringa's Mango Ice Cream Recipe

La Gringa's Mango Ice CreamLa Gringa's Mango Ice Cream

This recipe follows the basic Ben & Jerry's homemade ice cream recipe. Oh how I miss you. Ben and Jerry, but with your guidance, I make do! Still dreaming of New York Fudge Chunk and Chubby Hubby, though. My memories are fading and I can't even remember what was in Chubby Hubby, just that I really, really liked it! Was there something strange like chocolate-covered pretzels?

Here is a good tip for those of you in Honduras or other tropical climates. I've found that the Cuisinart is just not up to this climate and the ice cream will be milkshake consistency unless I chill the mixture VERY well first. Once I even used an extension cord and ran the machine inside the refrigerator. Another time, I took the machine to the bedroom and turned on the A/C! But that seemed really extravagant and neither method really made much difference, so now I try to plan ahead.

To avoid really soupy ice cream − and who can wait until it has completely hardened? − put the prepared mixture in the freezer
(in your mixing container, not the machine's freezer container). Usually you'll want to leave it for at least an hour, stirring occasionally to prevent ice crystals.

If you are starting with a room temperature mango, or any other warm ingredients, you may need to chill it for two hours or even more. Just be sure to check the mixture and stir in the frozen bits around the edge of the container occasionally. I usually set the timer and check it every 15-30 minutes so I don't forget.

If, however, you misjudge and after stirring, the mixture still contains icy particles, let it sit while you stir it for a minute or so just until the ice crystals melt. Otherwise you will end up with 'icy' ice cream − not
at all acceptable to Ben, Jerry, or La Gringa!

If you have an extra mango, chop it into small bits for topping the ice cream or stir some fruit into the completed ice cream as you serve it. El Jefe doesn't like frozen fruit, so I don't add fruit bits in advance.

By the way, if you are not in a tropical climate, don't be afraid to buy those mangoes that have traveled halfway around the world. Mangoes are often picked green and hard, even here where they are readily available. They still ripen quite nicely. However, before you buy them, check the mangoes carefully for soft spots or black spots. Those are often a sign that the fruit is damaged inside, too.

And finally, do you know that it has been scientifically proven that slightly soft ice cream tastes better than rock-hard ice cream? It has something to do with the taste buds freezing. Similarly, the ice cream mixture should taste just slightly too sweet, because once it is frozen, you won't taste the sweetness as much.

I hope you enjoy it!

La Gringa's Mango Ice Cream
makes 1 1/2 quarts

1 ripe mango, medium to large
2 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
2 cups cream
1 to 2 cups milk

Peel and slice the mango, choosing a less 'stringy' type of mango, if possible. Place in blender and puree until very smooth. If you start with about 2 cups of pieces, you should have 1 to 1 1/2 cups of puree. If your mango is very large, chop the excess and use to top the ice cream later.

Beat the eggs with a wire whisk for 2 minutes until thick and lemon-colored. Slowly whisk in the sugar, beating about a minute more. Stir in the vanilla, cream, and mango puree. Add enough milk to fill your container to the proper level. For the Cuisinart ice cream maker, 5 to 5 1/4 cups is the maximum.

Chill the mixture very well. Freeze according to your ice cream maker instructions.

If you must, substitute low-fat, no-fat, fake egg, sugar-free stuff, but I take no responsibility for that! ;-D

April 5, 2010

Meet Inzulaya and his friend Inchavastro

Inzulaya Inzulaya

I thought you might enjoy a laugh at José Miguel Insulza's expense. I found this clever cartoon at Nuevo Acción when looking for something else. Insulza was just reelected Secretary General of the OAS for another five years. Oh, joy!

His unopposed reelection is a testament to the loss of US influence in the hemisphere. See the Human Rights Foundation opinion on Insulza and the OAS at Insulza Dot No! Insulza has just proposed that he have more powers to intervene in countries of the region. Oh, more joy, especially for those countries opposed to XXI century socialism.

You can bet that intervention won't be performed in Venezuela or Cuba. Did you see his cowardly statement on Chávez's arrest of the president of the last remaining independent television station in
Venezuela? Could it be any more clear that he was pressured to issue that statement, and did his best to hide behind the skirts of the IACHR? Anyone care to compare that statement with the ones made to Honduras? Here's a hint: Venezuela - I worry..., I request...; Honduras - strongly condemn..., vehemently condemn..., demand... In fact, the OAS even condemned things that never happened!

Funny as that cartoon is, I believe that it gives way too much credit to Mel Zelaya. I have improved upon it and made it much more realistic. What do you think?

Inchavastro, the people in Jose Miguel Insulza's head
Meet Inchavastro, defender of democracy in the Americas.

April 1, 2010

Julio Martinez released from prison

Julio MartínezJulio Martínez
Photo: State Journal, Kentucky

I have some good news to report regarding the 19-year-old Honduran illegally brought to the US when he was seven by his mother. (See my article Hard life ahead in Honduras for one deportee for the background.)

On March 29, students held a rally in front of US Representative Ben Chandler's office in support of Julio Martínez. Numerous calls and emails had been sent to his office as well as to US immigration officials. See the State-Journal articles Students rally to stop Honduran's deportation and Friends drum up support for Honduran facing deportation.

Illinois Senator Dick Durbin also made inquiries on Martinez's behalf. Durbin, a Democrat, is the chief proponent of The Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act, known as the DREAM Act, which would allow illegal immigrants who arrived as children and graduated from US high schools to earn conditional residency. They could later earn the right to apply for permanent residency by graduating from college or serving in the military, and not being involved in any crimes.

According to Wikipedia's DREAM Act article, "Currently, alien minors in the United States can only obtain permanent status through their parents; there is no independent method to accomplish this.[3][4] If a child is brought into the country undocumented there is no method of becoming a documented resident."

After receiving several offers of help for Julio (a place to stay, help finding work, help adjusting to the country) from several US Americans in Honduras, I contacted the reporter, Charlie Pearl, at the State-Journal to ask if he could put me in touch with Julio's friends. Charlie wrote back but at the time had not been able to get in touch with them.

Since then, Julio has been released from jail. His attorney Rachel Newton credits the tremendous citizen pressure. "This case speaks to multiple failings of our immigration system and several of the many ways in which the system is broken," said Newton. Read more from the Lexingon Herald-Leader: Frankfort teen released from deportation center

Julio is not out of the woods yet. His case has been transferred back to the original Texas court who held the immigration hearing in 2000. His attorney filed a motion to rescind the deportation order and US Immigration (ICE) immediately filed a response saying that ICE did not oppose the motion. He could still be taken back into custody and deported if the Texas judge rules against him.

Reader comments on several of these articles show the strong anti-immigrant sentiment among some Americans, with comments such as "He should have known better" (at seven years old?), and accusations of "stealing tax money" and "hatching a master plot". Some readers see nothing wrong with punishing a child for the acts of the parent, even 11 years later.

One brainiac even decided that
"The only solution is that every Hispanic person needs to be rounded up and deported so everyone is treated equally." Apparently he was asleep during US history class and didn't know that many Hispanic families were in America before it was the USA and possibly even before his own family became American immigrants.

A recent US Supreme Court decision regarding Honduran Jose Padilla shows that not even US attorneys understand the US immigration system. "As the Court concedes, “[i]mmigration law can be complex”; “it is a legal specialty of its own”; and “[s]ome members of the bar who represent clients facing criminal charges, in either state or federal court or both, may not be well versed in it.” So to hold seven-year-olds or even 18-year-olds responsible for figuring out the immigration law and doing the right thing is a little ridiculous.

In an opinion column, Immigration reform now − Ky. case exposes mindless system, the Lexington Herald-Leader points out that in apparent conflict with the stated policy, ICE has set arrest quotas for immigration agents in a memo.

The Washington Post explained that one reason total deportations are falling is because it takes longer to deport a criminal (average 45 days) than a non-criminal (11 days), creating a shortage of detention beds. "For ICE leadership, it's not about keeping the community safe. It's all about chasing this 400,000 number," said an ICE workers union representative. Therefore, in order to meet quotas, ICE has pumped up deportations by going after immigrants who have only immigration related or other minor violations − in other words, the dangerous or violent criminals have more rights than non-criminal immigrants! ICE has since rescinded the memo.

The State-Journal also reported an ironic twist involving the Honduran Consulate in Chicago in this article: Julio: 'I'm so happy I'm out.' Many Honduran Consulate offices have notoriously not been providing services to Honduran citizens since June 28, 2009. Many citizens have been waiting more than 8 months to obtain passports or renewals and most of the consulates in the US have not even been answering their telephones. But the Chicago Consulate took instant action to provide Julio's deportation travel documents.

Happy Easter

It will be a happy Easter for some − for others, not so much.

suffering chocolate bunnies

Please be kind to animals, including chocolate bunnies and marshmallow peeps. Put them out of their misery quickly. Animals have feelings, too, you know.

hat tip to Trish for the cartoon!
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