I Too Am An Immigrant 

Immigrants come, and have always come in all sizes shapes, colors and genders, from all different cultures, ethnicities, religions and places. I am convinced however, that in most cases there are heart wrenchingly compelling reasons for them to leave all that they have ever known, in search of survival, freedom, and a better life. I know that if it was up to them, they would change their circumstances at home in order to stay in the place they know with the people and customs they love, eating the food that comforts them, listening to the music that touches their souls in the language they know.

It was Mexico, it was 1964:

“But why mommy, why do we have to leave Mexico?” I desperately asked my mother. Her answer was that there were better and more opportunities for our family in the U.S. There were opportunities for a better education, opportunities for a better living…you see, my family was suffering financial hardship in Mexico.

My father was American by birth, my mother had been born in Hungary and emigrated to Mexico as a small child with her parents and little sister. Her father had fled the growing anti-semitism in Hungary to search for a better life for him and his family. My grandmother was heartbroken at leaving her mother behind in Europe, so much so, that she made the transatlantic voyage twice with her two little girls because she hated that new country with its strange language and food. She was simply too homesick. Convinced by my grandfather before the Holocaust, she fortunately returned to Mexico in search of that better life, never to see her mother again. What sacrifices are made by immigrants!

My Mother on the left with her mother and sister Shortly after their arrival in Mexico.

My 11 year old brain tried to grasp my mother’s rational explanations for our move, but my 11 year old heart was broken. I didn’t want to leave my family and friends in Mexico, I didn’t want to leave my place of birth, and so this young heart of mine dragged for a long long time. My mother and I cried and cried as we said our goodbyes, she didn’t want to leave her mother and brother, and I didn’t want to leave my grandma and uncle

More deeply, at a cellular level, I needed for our family to be reunited. I needed to be with my father and 2 brothers, who 6 months earlier had made the drive from Mexico to Los Angeles. For them it was not an issue getting into the USA since they three, had been born in New York.

I had always heard my dad, a second generation American, and the grandson of Russian immigrants, say that the United States was the greatest country on earth. After a long time and as I matured, I grew to believe that this was the great country my father boasted of, with its Constitutional guarantee of “life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness,” and with its system of “Checks and Balances” with it’s Statue of Liberty proudly standing at New York Harbor as the hope of the world.

My mother and me at Santa Monica Beach shortly after our arrival in Los Angeles.

Having been born in Mexico, at the age of 18, I had to choose and declare citizenship, and I applied to become a naturalized American citizen. I sat in an immigration office with my father where both he and I were grilled with many questions, had he ever or was he now a member of the Communist Party, would I bear arms in the defense of the United States of America.

With time, after many years and tears I adjusted to life in this great country, but I had been, and to this day, remain deeply marked by the move north.

Today, my much older brain understands and is convinced that people don’t leave their homes voluntarily. Why would they? It’s what they know and what they love. Why would they put themselves and their children at peril by undergoing a merciless journey through harsh often life threatening conditions and terrain, to arrive at a country whose language they don’t speak, whose food is not appealing to face bigotry and hatred, unless they are desperate and under duress to search for survival, freedom and a better life for themselves and/or their families.

I’ve heard an expression in reference to old houses, referring to them as having good bones. Our country, The United States of America is that old house that has good bones. Let’s be inspired by the ideals that this country was founded upon, to resurrect this old house into that “shining city on the hill” where countless, have taken refuge, and have contributed to making this the greatest land on the face of the earth.

Let’s work together to bring back dignity, character, kindness, honesty, and empathy, to become that shining beacon of hope once again. We can accomplish all of this and remain within and support “the rule of law,” while fighting indifference, a lack of compassion, and while being indignant at the normalization of cruelty.

From Shiva in Mexico City to Shabbat Dinner In Puerto Escondido

A great irony of death is that it brings family to life.​

At the age of 92, on December 26, 2016, my dear Mother-in-law, Dora Schmidt, passed away in her sleep. Dora taught me, among other things, about the wealth of our Jewish heritage, and about the imperative of preserving that heritage through the education of our children.  In her youth Dora was a busy mother who incessantly cooked for her 6 children and opened her door and her table to all of their friends. As a grandmother and great-grandmother she continued to express her love of family through her cooking, especially for the weekly Shabbat meal.


Dora hugging her first born son, Isaac, AKA Ichito.

Dora Nedvedovich was born on the Shtetl of Kolno, in Poland, in 1924.  Her family  emigrated  and settled in Mexico City when she was about 3 years old.  She was the daughter of a loving, hard working and observant mother, and a father who was a learned and well respected Torah scholar.   Right there in the heart of downtown Mexico City, Dora grew up speaking Yiddish and Spanish, observing the Sabbath, and celebrating the Jewish holidays along with her parents, her sister and her two brothers, as they had on the Shtetl itself.

Just a few months ago Dora still lit Shabbat candles.  Lighting the candles week in and week out was a lifelong priority for her.

My husband Isaac, our 5 children, our son-in-law, our daughter-in-law, our baby granddaughter, and I,  traveled to Mexico City to attend Dora’s funeral and to sit Shiva.

As adults, Isaac and his five siblings had dispersed, and lived at long distances from one another.  It was the loss of their beloved mother that brought them together once again. During the 7 day mourning period, Isaac sat with his four brothers and one sister, and reconnected with them in a way that can only happen in this very unique circumstance.  They cried, they laughed, they told anecdotes…they  briefly relived their childhood.  The depth of the experience could be palpated by a passing expression or a heartfelt look


At the Shiva we cried, we laughed, we bonded, we reminisced…Those shown here are, Samuel, Alex, Susie, Iche, Frida, Orly, Mijal, Amy, Ariela, Kive, Dovi, Marcela, Aaron, Molly, Malka.

On one of the Shiva days it was suggested that we all get together for a Schmidt family reunion.  Thanks to two of Dora’s granddaughters (Alex and Mijal) this idea was brought to fruition 10 days ago, when 25 of us traveled to Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca for a grand reunion indeed.

We rented what could be described as a compound with separate villas for each couple or family. We had cooks on staff who prepared our meals, from the freshest of juices and fruits, to eggs Mexican style each morning, to fresh fish ceviche and grilled fish on a daily basis for lunch, along with tasty side dishes, fresh tortillas and a variety of the spiciest of salsas.  We played, laughed, and reminisced.

There were moments of quiet  awe at the realization that our family had evolved. The older generation had passed away, the new generation had slipped into the new old generation, and a newer generation yet, had come stealthily and joyfully upon us.


With great excitement, Tamara, Anita, Anette, Jorge, Pascual, Daniela, Sergio, Marcela, Dovi, Ariela, Orly,  Mijal, Amy, Sami, Isaac, Susie, Molly, Aaron, Ari, Jack, Noa, Eddy, Gali, Alex, and Samuel, gather around to play the famous dice game!

Beach Day

The presence of each and every one of us made the totality of our reunion more than the sum of its parts.  Anita printed copies of Dora’s recipes and created packets that she handed out to all of us.  Isaac led the Kiddish and I baked and transported 4 challahs for the Friday night meal, which came after the lighting of Shabbat candles.

Isaac sat in the pool with his brothers, and all of the kids for hours, talking, laughing, playing and joking. Aaron invented a game where everyone took turns jumping into lifesavers from the pool’s edge.  We had the opportunity to have heartfelt conversations between siblings, sisters and brothers-in-law, cousins, aunts and uncles, nieces and nephews, children and parents, and parents and children.   Alex and Mijal planned the logistics including transportation and day trips, and an underwater bioluminescence adventure.  Along with Dovi they took care of all of the accounting and the planning of meals.

One day they brought in two masseuses and we all had oceanfront massages.  Noa, Alex, Anita and others took part in what seemed to be a dance contest. providing infinite laughter and fun. And in the evening we went up to Amy and Anita’s suite where we watched and then applauded the magnificent sunset.

Our farewell dinner was memorable, we made toasts and drank Mescal, and vowed to meet again soon. Desiring for time to slow down we then walked inseparably through the small town looking over all of the stands and buying small souvenirs.

The spicy Salsa challenge:

​The time spent together was pure gold, no, actually a value could not even be ascribed to our reunion.  9 year old Jack expressed it best when he verbalized his wish to travel back in time so that the family togetherness would never end. I think we all felt the same way.

From generation to generation, now in the absence of Dora and the rest of our parents, we became the grandparents.  In our new role, we experienced the joy of time spent with those we love and cherish most.  Yet time marched on, like grains of sand slipping through our fingers, the moments fled and what moments they were…

The newest of the new generation, my precious granddaughter Orly:


Polenta Medallions In Spicy Tomato Saffron Sauce. 

Traditionally at Hanukkah we make fried foods to commemorate the miracle of the oil that burned in the temple for 8 days,  when it was supposed to last much less time.  I love our latkes and our sufganiyot (jelly doughnuts)  but eight days is a long time to keep eating potato pancakes. I will be making Polenta medallions which are dipped in an egg batter and fried. This is a savory recipe for when you’ve had a enough of the sweet stuff.  This recipe is great for Hanukkah and any other time of the year. 


  • 1 bar of polenta 
  • 4 eggs separated 
  • Dash of salt
  • 1/2 cup diced onion
  • Canola oil for frying 
  • 3 diced tomatoes 
  • 1 Tbsp. Chili flakes (optional)
  • 1/2 Tsp. Saffron threads dissolved in 1/4 cup warm water


Slice polenta bar in 1/4″ circles, and then cut each circle into 4 quarters, set aside.   With a hand mixer beat egg whites with a dash of salt until stiff peaks form. Add in the egg yolks and beat thoroughly.In a large frying pan heat about 1/4 cup oil over medium heat. Dip each piece of polenta into the egg batter and add to the hot oil, when it is browned turn over and brown the other side. Add a oil as necessary. When each piece is browned on all sides remove to paper towel to drain. Add the onions to the still hot leftover oil in pan, and fry until translucent. Add diced tomatoes and chili flakes cook for about 3 minutes mixing constantly. Add the dissolved saffron threads and water. Bring to a simmer for about another four minutes, then add salt to taste.  ​​Place browned polenta medallions in an oven safe serving dish, and cover evenly and generously with the tomato sauce. Serve immediately or place in a warm oven before serving.

Enjoy and have a very Happy Hanukkah!

Apple Cheesecake Recipe

Now that the Presidential debate is over and the High Holy Days are quickly approaching,  we can all focus on the more essential, important and sweeter things in life, namely what you’re making for Rosh Hashanah dessert.  Since I’m preparing a meat meal, because after all, what would Rosh Hashanah be without beef enchiladas,  I wanted to come up with a non-dairy dessert that incorporated our tradition of eating apples on Rosh Hashanah.  I am making an apple cheesecake but without the cheese, by using non-dairy cream cheese and non-dairy sour cream. If you prefer to make this a dairy dessert, the recipe is versatile enough for you to replace non-dairy for dairy ingredients.

It occurred to me that While in Morocco two years ago, my daughter Anita and I had taken a cooking class where we learned how to make the delicious apple crepes which were served each morning for breakfast in our Riyadh (lodging in the Old City of Marrakesh). I decided to use that filling recipe and combine it with a pareve (non-dairy) cheesecake to create something new and original.


  • 1 cup graham cracker crumbs (plain or cinnamon flavored)
  • 3 tablespoons of margarine, at room temperature
  • 1  tablespoon sugar plus 1 cup sugar
  • 12 ounces non-dairy sour cream
  • 1 pound non-dairy cream cheese
  • zest of one lemon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 additional egg yolks
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon kosher brandy (optional)


  • 4 apples peeled, cored, and thinly sliced in food processor
  • 1 tablespoon margarine
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon


Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees F.

Grease the bottom of a 9 inch springform pan.  Place 2 packets of graham crackers in the blender, pulse and then blend until they have become fine crumbs.  In a medium mixing bowl combine graham cracker crumbs, margarine and sugar, and mix well.   With your hands press crumbs evenly and compactly  into the bottom of the prepared pan.

Place pan in 375 F. degree oven for 8 minutes (it will become golden brown), remove and then lower oven temperature to 350 degrees F .  When pan has cooled, line the outside with aluminum foil.

In a large mixing bowl, combine sour cream, cream cheese,  cup of sugar, lemon zest and vanilla. Mix well with electric mixer.  Add the eggs, egg yolks, flour and brandy and mix again until smooth. Pour mixture into the prepared pan.  Place the pan inside a roasting pan which you have filled with water (just enough water to come half way up the sides of the springform pan. Bake for 90 minutes.


While cake is baking, peel, core and slice the apples.  Melt the 1 tablespoon of margarine in a large saucepan, and add the apples. Mix for a few minutes at medium high heat then add sugar and cinnamon. Keep cooking and stirring until all liquid has evaporated, remove from heat.  When cool gently place apples on cooled cake and arrange decoratively with your fingers.

Refrigerate until serving time.

Enjoy the Non-Dairy Apple Cheesecake, and Chag Sameach!

Serves 12-16




Guns and Miracles

The days slipped into weeks and the weeks into months, and yet I couldn’t shake it…the glint of the gun pointing at my face loomed large in my thoughts and in my dreams.  It was the Sunday before Thanksgiving 1989.  We piled our four young children into the back seat of the car and happily went off to visit grandma and grandpa.  It was only 5 p.m. but it was as dark as midnight as I drove up their steep driveway.   I pulled up to the car court, honked the horn and turned off the ignition.  At the same time, in my side mirror I  noticed something moving quickly toward us. I instinctively locked the car doors, and then, through the closed window the gun was in my face.  I calmly said to my husband, who was in the passenger seat, “This is real, give him whatever he wants.”  At first he didn’t know what I was talking about, he hadn’t been looking in my direction.  The young guy began to scream “Don’t move, don’t move!” At that moment my father flipped on the car court lights and opened the front door.  The guy pointed the gun at him and screamed at him not to move.

I wanted to pick up our car phone and call 911, but those were the days when car phones were just coming out, and the car had to be running for you to use them…I had turned the ignition off an instant  before the young man had reached the car.

The windows on our car were darkly tinted. The young man  couldn’t see that there were four little people in the back seat and was surprised at the sounds coming from there.  He kept screaming “Don’t move” and aiming his gun at me and then at my father, and back at me.  Little voices screamed “Mommy what is he going to do?”  “Daddy do something!”  “Mommy, daddy what does he want?”  I just kept thinking, be calm and get the kids safely into the house over and over again.  With a panicked look on his face, our young would-be robber looked over at my father, then at me, then at the tinted backseat windows, and at that moment decided to turn around and run back down the driveway from where he had come.

The police came and took their report. Not knowing exactly how to define it at the time, we were all suffering from a bit of P.T.S.D. I took my kids to a psychologist so that they could vent their fears, and I visited a psychologist as well.  I told him that I was too afraid to ever go back to my parents’ house.  I didn’t even want to go the next Thursday for Thanksgiving.  He said to me, “We’re going for a ride.”  He took me out to his car, and he drove me up to my parents’, while asking me all the way what I was feeling.  My heart was pounding as we approached the house.  We went up the driveway, got out of his car, and he asked me to walk down to  where the young man had sprung from.  He made me look in the bushes and all around until I began to calm down.  The daylight and calm blue skies made me relax a bit. I overcame my fears enough to make it for Thanksgiving that year, but I never really got over the glint of the gun randomly appearing in my mind over the years.

With the advent of Hanukkah beginning tonight, a holiday where we rejoice in miracles, and with the prevalence of guns in our country today,  I recall this event in my life as a true miracle.

Here is wishing each and every one of you a Happy Hanukkah and a life full of miracles!

Hanukkah Potato Latkes…From Generation to Generation

The scent of the freshly baked apple cake and walnut cookies traveled through my pores and into me, faster than a good and delicious kind of virus.

My mouth watered sitting there at the kitchen table in my future in-laws’ apartment in Mexico City, 36 years ago.  As they caught us up, in that cozy setting of deliciously permeating scents and family bonding, with the latest community news of who’d gotten married and who’d divorced, who’d had a baby and who’d passed away, I felt I was getting a glimpse into the old world.  I imagined that this is what the tables must have been like in the small homes of the shtetls (Jewish villages or small towns in Eastern Europe) where Dora and Jacobo had been born, about a half century before. This exclusive club I was now privy to was somehow comforting.  It was as if I had landed on an enormous down filled open palm where I’d always be gently held.

Just as comforting were the infinite dishes of food Dora prepared the next day for the open house, when I was to meet near and extended family and friends.

“Susie, meet Dovi and Marcela, and Sami,and Rosie,  Frida, Jacobo and Ofelia, Samuel and Edith…”  So many people came and went that day I could barely remember anyone’s name.  I never knew a family could be so numerous; between siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins and friends it was dizzying meeting about 150 people in one afternoon and evening, but I had the time of my life!

From that time to the present, my mother-in-law has taught me recipe after recipe; recipes for everyday, recipes for Shabbat and for the Jewish holidays, Eastern European recipes and Mexican recipes….

Even today, I continue to learn from Dora.  Over Thanksgiving, we were blessed to have her visit us from Mexico City.  A few days before she flew back home, and with Hanukkah approaching, I asked her to teach my daughter Ariela and me how to make the traditional Hanukkah potato latkes (potato pancakes prepared especially for the holiday) she’s been making for over 70 years.

Click on the link at the top to watch our Traditional Hanukkah Potato Latke Recipe Video, and see how from generation to generation treasured recipes have been passed down in our family.


  • 1/3 onion
  • 2 Russet Potatoes
  • 1/4 cup matzoh meal
  • 3 eggs
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 cup canola oil for frying

Garnish options:

  • Applesauce
  • Sour cream


Place the onion in a food processor, blend and set aside.  Grate the two potatoes on the fine side of a hand grater, strain liquid and place in a bowl.  Add the processed onions and mix. Add the 1/4 cup of matzoh meal and mix.  In a separate bowl Crack the 3 eggs, mix briskly with a fork, add to the potato mixture and mix thoroughly, add salt and pepper to taste.  Heat the oil over a medium high flame and wait until it is very hot.   Take  a 1/4 cup measuring cup and fill it (a little less than full) with the potato mixture.  Get very close to the oil and gently pour it in. Repeat until pan is full.  After putting the latkes into the hot oil lower the flame a bit to allow the potato to cook inside.  When the edges of the latkes turn golden brown flip each one over and allow them to brown on the other side, repeat until you have used one half of the potato mixture.

For Ariela’s Spicy Latkes add 1 tablespoon oregano, and  1/4 – 1/2 cup chopped jalapeño peppers from a jar, to the 2nd half of the potato mixture.

Garnish options for the Spicy Latkes:

  • Avocado slices
  • Salsa Verde: Recipe found on the blog
  • Pico de Gallo: A mixture of diced onion, tomato, cilantro leaves, 1 Serrano chili pepper (optional) salt and pepper to taste, and olive oil.

Fry the latkes as you did  the first batch.  Remove from heat and serve right away.

This recipe makes about 20 latkes in total.

Thank you Dora, I am grateful to be the beneficiary of such a rich cultural and culinary heritage.

Enjoy and Happy Hanukkah everybody!







Turkey/Stuffing Taquitos With Guacamole

Still have Thanksgiving leftovers?  Make Turkey/Stuffing Taquitos.  I did and I went:

From this:

Turkey Leftovers

Turkey Leftovers

To This:

Turkey Stuffing Taquitos

Turkey/Stuffing Taquitos

 To This:


Turkey/Stuffing Taquitos:


  • 8 Corn tortillas (double or triple depending on how many people you are serving)
  • 1 cup turkey breast shredded
  • 1 cup stuffing
  • 1/3-1/2 cup canola oil per batch of 8 tortillas


Combine the shredded turkey breast with the stuffing and mix thoroughly.

Warm up the 6-8 tortillas at a time in the microwave oven for one minute (They roll up easier when warm).  Keep the tortillas warm in a tortilla warmer or in between two dry kitchen towels.

Take one tortilla at a time and fill it with a little more than a tablespoon of the turkey/stuffing combination. Roll it up and set aside.  If you are having trouble you can hold each taquito together by putting two toothpicks through each.   Place them one next to the other on a flat surface.

When you have finished rolling all of the taquitos, place canola oil into a frying pan large enough to hold all 8 taquitos.

Heat the oil over medium heat for about 3 minutes, and using a pair of tongs, place each taquito into the hot oil, leaning one up against the next.

Allow the taquitos to fry for about 5 minutes, or until they become crisp and golden. Taquitos will now hold their rolled up shape so that you may remove the toothpicks and turn them over so that they fry for another 5 minutes on the other side.

Remove each taquito from the oil and place on a paper towel so that excess oil is absorbed. When you have removed all of the taquitos pat them gently on their top side to absorb that excess oil as well.

Serve hot and accompany with a homemade guacamole (mashed avocado, diced onion, chopped cilantro and salt to taste).



This Thanksgiving I Pay Tribute To My Father And The Music He Taught Me To Love.

I started filming my dad in February of this year.  I am so grateful to have garnered  hour upon hour of conversation.  One month after I began filming my dad, just before his 96th birthday, he suffered a stroke, which left him without the ability to speak. I have edited the footage for this particular project, and have made this 14 minute movie to honor, thank and  pay tribute to the music my father so loves… the music he ingrained in me.

I hope you enjoy watching!


Dad this Thanksgiving 2014, I want to thank you for all that you have given me, but most of all I thank you for the music…it defines me.

Since I can remember, early in the morning the music notes stealthily floated away from your living room record player winding their way upstairs. Continuing their path down the hallway, they adeptly made their way beneath  the narrow opening at the bottom of my bedroom door.  Then with passion and gentle ferocity they wiggled their way into my heart and took hold.   In that heart lies the music that framed your life, my dad.  There, down deep, Gershwin, Ella and Sinatra, Durante and Martin,   Mathis, Bennett,  Andy Williams and Eydie Gorme, Agustin Lara, Los Panchos, Edith Piaf and Doris Day, The Three Tenors, Vladimir Horowitz , Oistrakh,  Dvorak and on and on… safely reside to this day.

Now, at 96, though your speech is diminished,  your eyes  speak the words you can no longer utter.  The music still connects us in that elemental way it always did.  In those blue-green eyes lies the man you’ve always been.  Dad this year on this Thanksgiving I want to express that I am so grateful for all that you’ve given me, but especially for the music that has so enriched my life, and for every instant we still spend together.

Happy Thanksgiving 2014 to all!



A Jewish Wedding On A Mexican Beach – Part 1

Mazel Tov Michael and Kat!

Mazel Tov Michael and Kat!



“Michael and Kat,

When you first announced that you were having a destination wedding that involved a 2-1/2 hour airplane flight and then a drive longer than the flight itself, in my mind I couldn’t stop thinking of the “F” word, yes that’s right, the “F” word…but it wasn’t the “F” word you are all thinking about.  It was the word FAMILY.  That word, FAMILY, is so full of layers that evoke so much emotion in all of us…”

That was how I started out my speech last Friday night at my nephew’s wedding in Careyes, Mexico.

I had spent the previous 2 days making and baking 34 challahs for the Shabbat dinner we would be having on the beach the Friday before the wedding.

In customs after landing in Puerto Vallarta, a very astute and beautiful Black Labrador was relentlessly trying to get into my suitcase where I had packed the 34 challahs for the 17 tables there would be at the dinner that night. The customs agent firmly holding the lab back on his leash politely asked me, “Señora, do you have food on you?”  “Yes I do” I said.  “What is it?” he asked, I responded simply, “Baked bread.”  He said,  “We are going to have to inspect it.”  A young lady agent and I walked over to a table where we lifted up the suitcase.  I didn’t unzip it all the way fearing she would have to go through each loaf, so I opened it just enough for her to catch a quick glimpse as I pulled out one of the loaves in its aluminum foil container.  I showed it to her and she asked me if it contained any meat, to which I responded “Para nada,” absolutely not.  She asked, “what are the ingredients?”   “Sugar, yeast, water, eggs, oil, salt and flour”.  She said “O.K. go ahead,” and I quickly zipped up the suitcase and made my way to the exit!

34 Challas for the Wedding Shabbat

34 Challahs for the Wedding Shabbat

About 3 hours later and a bit car sick, the 10 of us arrived at the casitas (houses) at Costa Careyes. We delivered the challahs to Michael, my nephew, went quickly to get changed, and then went down to Shabbat dinner on the beach at Playa Rosa.  I kissed Michael and Kat (his fiancée) and my cousins Mark, Leah, Claudia, Fernando and Jenni.  Then there were my cousins’ precious children Dan, Orly, Gabriel and Diego.  I hugged and held my cherished Aunt Fressia closely.  To be there with my husband and all of our children, and to greet family and friends from near and far on that beach was beautiful, and sharing in the experience of that Shabbat dinner was such a special and meaningful way to kick off the weekend with FAMILY.

We were all quite worried about Grandma Helen, Michael’s 99 year-old grandmother who had wanted to be there for her only grandchild’s wedding.  Helen had never been out of the U.S. and had applied for a passport for the first time in her life just a few months before. She had gotten very sick and dehydrated on the ride from the airport, but thankfully began to feel better upon her arrival at the venue.


The next day we were free to hang out at the beach.  In the middle of the day, Ariela, our daughter, said “Mom, we have a surprise for you and Dad in a few minutes.”  I asked if we should go up and change, but she said “No”.   Ten minutes later a boat pulled up to the edge of the beach and our kids said, “Here is your surprise, let’s go, let’s get on the boat!”  “OK Captain Crunchy (that’s what the boat captain called himself) Let’s go.”  All ten of us on board, we took off for the next beach cove over, Playa Blanca.  This was the spot where I had met my husband 38 years earlier.  In the ocean, in front of the sands of Playa Blanca, our kids pulled out a bucket with a bottle of champagne.  They opened the bottle and poured champagne for all of us.  They made toasts to us and said, “Dad, tell us about the first time you met Mom.”  My husband, Isaac, proceeded to tell them the story, and I followed with my version of that fateful day we first met at Playa Blanca in Mexico, all those years ago. There it was again that special and magic moment shared with FAMILY.

Boat Ride to Playa Blanca

Boat Ride to Playa Blanca


While the family still slept on the morning of the wedding I tiptoed out the front door.  I hadn’t gotten the chance to meet my cousin Jenni’s baby, Danielle,  so I went on a mission to find their villa (which was not easy). I descended stairs, crossed a beach, ascended stairs and boarded a funicular in their search.  I finally found their place and I met beautiful little Danielle; my heart melted as I looked at my cousin’s beautiful little blue-eyed baby daughter.  Upon my return, Juana our cook/housekeeper was already in the midst of preparing a typical Mexican breakfast of huevos revueltos a la Mexicana, scrambled eggs Mexican style served with warm corn tortillas, guacamole, and salsa, accompanied by wonderful hot Mexican coffee.  One at a time, the delicious aroma beckoned sleepy person after sleepy person to the table.  We all wiped our dishes clean and went off to get ready for the wedding.

Shuttles would be taking groups to the wedding venue, Cuixmala, which was a 20 minute ride away. We were on the 1:30 Shuttle.  We really didn’t know what to expect, but when we arrived at Casa Cuixmala,  our jaws dropped and we understood why this was Michael and Kat’s dream wedding venue .

The Wedding Venue, Casa Cuixmala


The interior of this palace was just as spectacular as the exterior. We were offered drinks and hors d’oeuvres while a talented Mexican trio played so many of my favorite romantic Mexican songs (boleros, to which I know all of the lyrics).  I was bursting with joy to be here in this dream setting with my immediate and extended family to celebrate the wedding of my very special nephew.  After photos we were told to make our way down to the beach, so we descended the many many stairs, and there beyond the pool stood the beautiful and perfect chuppah, right on the beach.

A Most Perfect Setting

The moment came, the procession began.  Grandma Helen fully recovered, was sitting front row center.

Grandma Helen All Dressed Up

Grandma Helen All Dressed Up

Out walked the Rabbi, followed by Michael, the groom, looking happy and serene, flanked by my beaming brother Gary and beautiful sister-in-law Michele.

Michael and Gary


Michael and Michele

Then came the best man (my son Aaron) and maid of honor followed by the rest of the bridal party, culminating with the gorgeous bride, Katerina and her proud parents, Faina and Michael.

The Gorgeous Bride Kat with Michael and Faina

The groom stepped forward, took his bride-to-be, and together they walked toward the marriage canopy.  The Rabbi chanted and spoke, blessings were bestowed, vows were made, Michael broke the glass, and there at a most perfect time and place, on that Mexican beach, my dear nephew Michael married his beloved Kat.

The Happy Bride And Groom

We formed a cocoon of love and we held Michael and Kat warmly within.  The magic of that moment  surrounded by cherished FAMILY  and friends from near and far, will remain etched within each and every heart of those of us who were fortunate to be there to share in that real life fairy tale.

 P.S.  Part 2 coming soon:  The party and 34 Challah  recipe.