Once the sun goes down, Merida, Mexico definitely does not roll up the sidewalks.  After dark, people are out and about, walking, shopping, dining, and the city lights are very pretty -- especially at Christmas time, when even more lights than usual decorate la noche (the night).
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The Paseo de Montejo at night
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Utility tower all dressed up for Christmas
On Saturday night as we were strolling around after dinner, we were lucky enough to happen upon the area at the south end of the Paseo de Montejo all lit up and filled with vendors selling food, jewelry, leather items, clothing, and other things.  In addition, there was a musical stage performance set up in the park area.  All the singing was in Spanish, but the costumes and voices were charming.  Quite a large crowd was sitting and watching the performance.
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Vendors in park
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Festive Mexican dancers
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And a singer -- wish we could have understood what she was singing about!
The huge Christmas tree in the same area was all lit up.
More night scenes from around town...
The beautiful Merida Cathedral at night...
Stay tuned for Part 2 of Merida food...and then we travel to our next Mexican city!
 
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We attended Bob and Helaine's (which I probably spelled wrong -- my apologies) annual Christmas potluck yesterday afternoon, and it was a great time!  I had gone last year as well, but Barry had a bad cold and had to stay home.  I was glad that he could attend this year and enjoy the food, friends, and festivities.

I transported the casserole I'd made down the beach in my bike basket.  It was a fun way to get to a party on a warm, breezy Christmas Day on the island.

There was a great crowd and lots of new people (and several pooches!) to meet, plus some familiar faces.  The second floor porch catches wonderful breezes and is a great place to hang out and chat.  The chicken wing I'm chowing down on here was made by Cheri of Lazy Croc, so you know it had to be good!

There were plenty of appetizers to munch on while the final dinner preparations were being made indoors.  I was saving my appetite for the meal so only tried the one chicken wing.

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The beautiful view from the porch
Jean made some excellent "Island Sangria" which of course I had to try.  I love sangria, and this was fruity and delicious!
Here's the dish I made -- my own creation. I was inspired by a recipe for a similar dish with spinach and bulgur wheat.  I substituted chaya leaves (which I'd never heard of until moving to Belize) for the spinach, brown rice for the bulgur, and added feta, oregano, and the tomatoes on top for a "Christmasy" look. 
The entire spread was awe-inspiring!  Plenty of a variety of delicious homemade treats to go around, including turkey, stuffing, gravy, and plenty of side dishes.  There was also a huge crockpot full of mashed potatoes (not shown in this photo).
Our groaning plates...
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Barry's
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Mine
Almost identical.  I think we we both tried a little bit of just about everything.  It was all yummy, but I could have eaten the challah bread (baked by Scott) all day long!
It got strangely quiet about this time.  I do believe that everyone was enjoying their Christmas dinner!  
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The outdoor crew
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The indoor crew, including Bob & Helaine's Dobie, Bess
Just when we thought we couldn't eat another bite, the desserts came out.  My favorite part!
Not pictured -- a gorgeous glazed pound cake came out late, so I cut a thin slice to take home and try later.  It will be my treat for today.
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Yum.
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Barry's plate -- he is thorough with his desserts!
Here I am with Helaine, a tiny and incredibly fit lady who can kick my butt in yoga...she's amazing.  We really appreciated the invitation to this excellent potluck.  Gatherings like this help so much when you're far from family during the the holidays.
Time to head home and get Paisley out on a walk!
 
This Christmas morning there was a knock on our door.  A Grand Caribe worker stood at the door with an envelope marked "B & E".  I thanked him and wished him a Merry Christmas, wondering what this mystery envelope could possibly be.  An invitation?  A note from someone?  

When I opened it, this is what I found inside:
Wow!  My jaw dropped as I showed Barry what was in the envelope -- something completely unexpected.  We were taken aback at this gift certificate from blog readers Glenn and Candy, whom we have not even met.  What a sweet and generous surprise!

We're delighted that they found our blog inspiring and hope that their visit to Belize is all they hoped for.  They certainly picked a beautiful time of year to visit, with perfect Christmas weather -- sunny and warm (cool to people who live here, but that's a good thing in my book!)

Glenn and Candy, if you are reading this, a heartfelt thanks to both of you for this thoughtful gift.  As I've mentioned on this blog from time to time, I love wine and rarely get to enjoy it here on the island due to the much higher prices than in the US.  The only time I've even been into Wine de Vine was to buy a gift bottle for someone else.  So this will be a real treat.  And if you are still at Grand Caribe, please stop by our veranda at Chico Caribe before you leave the island so that we can meet you and say thank you in person.  If the curtains are opened up, we're home.   We hope you have a wonderful Christmas and New Year!
 
We were invited to a Christmas afternoon potluck at Bob and Helene's home, not too far down the road from us.  Barry had been especially excited about this as he loves potluck meals.  Unfortunately, he was still suffering from his "Christmas cold" and didn't want to infect anyone, so I had to go solo. I had been planning to ride my bike down, but since I was bringing a hot casserole dish (bulgur with spinach and feta) and a plate of cookies, gratefully accepted a ride from Tim and Jean in their Polaris to avoid any food mishaps (thanks guys!!!)
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Casual Christmas attire for a warm day
That means, once again, a severe dearth of photographs in this posting, as I am just no good at socializing, eating, drinking, and taking pictures all at the same time.  Sorry about that, folks.  I chose to concentrate on the first three of those activities, and only snapped this one shot of Jodie and Sunny.  Loved Sunny's reindeer antlers! 
The party was so much fun!  I knew only a few people there ahead of time, but met many more and had some good conversations and a lot of laughs.  Bob and Helene roasted a turkey and a ham, and along with all the side dishes and desserts others had brought, I ate way too much.  The sparkling Pinot Grigio that Gale and John brought was also a favorite of mine.  Who knew it could be purchased right at Super Buy South?

As I was leaving, Helene generously suggested that I take a plate of turkey and fixings for Barry, so I loaded one up to bring home, along with a couple of desserts.  I know he would much rather have been there in person, but at least he got to sample some of the goodies, and there was even enough turkey left for me to have a turkey sandwich for lunch today!  

In the shuffle of fixing the plate and gathering my things to take home, I managed to leave the glass top for my casserole dish at Bob and Helene's (it has a separate plastic lid that can be used after the contents cooled, and that is what I put on to take it home), so I'll have to take another trip down soon to retrieve it. 

Hopefully we can get Barry up and about soon so the blog photography will pick back up again!
 
Normally we almost always ride our bikes to town together to run our errands, but this morning, Barry woke up with a sore throat, so I was on my own while he rested, drank tea, sucked on zinc, and tried to stave off a cold.  Yes, even in the tropics, viruses happen.  

Since he wasn't around to do the photography, I apologize that this is an almost photo-free blog posting.  I was just too hot and sweaty while riding around to want to prolong my journey even more by taking photos.

My first stop was to drop off cookies for a couple of friends down south.  Baking in such a humid environment is an adventure in and of itself, not to mention wrapping plates in bubble wrap and transporting them in a bike basket on a hot, sunny, and humid day.  I honestly didn't expect it to be quite this warm on Christmas week, especially considering it was quite a bit cooler many days in October and November.  This week it's been 80 degrees by 8 am every morning.  Oh well, it's the thought that counts, right?  Fortunately, everyone was at home and this little Christmas elf was able to make her deliveries.

Next I stopped at Maria's for some vegetables to make some chicken soup for the sickie back at home.  I also left a plate of cookies for Maria, since she was in town at the time.  She's been so good to us since we moved here I wanted to say thank you, though I never could thank her enough for her kindness and generosity.

On the way through town I stopped in Central Park for some water, and snapped a photo of the new town clock.  Much has been written about this ill-conceived and poorly placed architectural mistake elsewhere, so I will refrain from saying more, other than that the addition of the electronic billboards really takes the cake.  Tacky, tacky, tacky.  I didn't realize we were in Vegas, baby....
My next stop was at Orchid Tree to pick up Christmas cupcakes I'd ordered awhile back as a surprise for Barry.  Unfortunately, after traveling home in the heat in a bike basket on the bumpy road, they looked WAY worse for the wear, icing had melted, and a couple had tipped over.  Definitely not picture-worthy.  Again, it's the thought that counts, and I am sure they will taste much better than they look.  I plan to find out by helping him out with the eating part!

Finally, after an unplanned stop at Casa pan Dulce for a loaf of sinful garlic bread to accompany the chicken soup (I'll get you for this, Ruthie!), my time in town was complete.  I arrived home dripping sweat and ready for a rendezvous with the pool, which had rarely felt better.

The chicken soup is now well underway and is smelling really good.  I put a hot pepper in to help with Barry's congestion, so hopefully he will be feeling much better by Christmas Day.  He was also sick last Christmas, where it actually snowed in Ocean Isle Beach, North Carolina, so at least we are guaranteed a much warmer holiday this time around.
 
While we have been complete slouches in the Christmas decorating department for our first Christmas here in Chico Caribe (Grand Caribe's little companion building), not everyone around us has.  Barry strolled around the resort with his camera in hand to show that at least a few good folks (including the Grand Caribe staff, of course!) are displaying admirable Christmas spirit.  Enjoy!
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Tim & Jean in the H building show some spirit
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Don't know these folks in the E building, but I like what they did with their half-round balcony
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Closer up
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Christmas tree in Grand Caribe lobby
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Cowboy Doug's Bar & Grill all decked out
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Grand Caribe at night