Monthly Archives: April 2008

Quick Recipe: Melon Margarita Fresca

This is a delicious alternative to the standard Margarita mix you buy from the store. Perfect for a summer refresher, and even more perfect when the cantaloupe is less than ripe–and refuses to ripen, because now you can use it for something other than the compost pile. Add a sprig of mint, it you please, and it becomes a Melon Margarita Mint Julep — we’re in the south now, honey.

1/2 cantaloupe, seeded, peeled and cut into 1″ cubes

1/2 cup simple syrup

3-4 T fresh lime juice (juice of a large lime)

1 cup water

12 ice cubes

3-4 shots of good quality Tequila

Combine all ingredients except the liquor in a blender and puree until smooth on high speed. Add the Tequila and blend for a second or two until mixed in. Pour into Margarita or red wine glasses. If you like a salted rim, rub the rim with lime, then turn it over and dip the rim into a cooled simple syrup, just enough to coat the edge, then dip the rim into plate of Kosher salt until the rim is coated. Invert and pour in the liquid.

Serves 4.

Simple syrup: Put 1/2 cup of sugar and a 1/2 cup of water into a small saucepan. Cook over medium heat until sugar melts and liquid is clear and begins to come to a simmer.

I’m also going to try this with a honeydew melon!

Mexican Rugs: Another Pattern Language

There are about 40 rugs piled up in various corners of my house — in the entryway, the living room, my office, and a few packed away in the attic waiting for Eric’s return in October. We’ve decided to take photos of them and display them on the website:

When you get there, just click on “Rug Gallery” to take you to the page. These will be offered for sale, too, and I’ve also included several beautiful decorator pillows in the offering. Keep checking back, because I’ll be adding more to the gallery this week and next. And, let me know if you have any questions.

All, except a few pieces, are dyed with natural materials or are handwoven using the undyed natural color of the sheep wool.

The traditional patterns express Zapotec mythology, iconography and interpretations of animals, insects, and other elements of the natural and mystical world. If you look closely, you will see a butterfly, lightening, mountains, rain, birds, stars, the eye of God, a cactus flower, the sun and moon, the caracol snail symbolizing communication, numerology, and more. Some of the designs are innovative and much more contemporary, and take elements of traditional designs as their foundation. The Chavez family are artists and every great artist continues to explore and develop their art form.

Do you think green builders and interior designers would be interested in knowing about these rugs for their clients, since all the materials used in their creation are natural?

Fall 2008: Exhibitions, Weaving & Dyeing Workshops

It will be a busy time for Eric Chavez and his sister Janet when they return to the U.S. in October 2008. They will be demonstrating natural dyeing techniques at Cloth Fiber Workshop in Asheville, NC, on the evening of Thursday, October 2.  They will explore cochineal, moss, and pomegranate and the color variations achieved using alum and baking soda. Then, there is a possibility for them to present dyeing techniques using cochineal at a weaving class already scheduled at Penland School of Crafts after that. Penland has already discussed inviting them to teach a two week workshop in summer 2009.

I have just completed writing a Grassroots Grant in partnership with the Arts Incubator in Siler City, NC, to the Chatham Arts Council, for Eric and Janet to do a series of arts in education teacher in-service trainings, classroom demonstrations, artist workshops and public exhibitions with demonstrations in Pittsboro and Siler City, NC, from October 15-26. Then, Eric and Janet will travel to South Bend, Indiana, where they have been invited by the Snite Museum of Art at the University of Notre Dame to participate in their Day of the Dead program in early November. At Notre Dame, they will construct an altar that represents the village of Teotitlan del Valle and Oaxaca, and interpret it for this exhibition. The Snite Museum is purchasing one of the Chavez rugs woven by Eric’s father, Federico, in their permanent collection. I’ll be writing more about this, but wanted to give you advanced notice so you can attend an event if your schedule permits.

Recipe: Elsa’s No-Bake Oaxaca Lime Cake

Elsa Sanchez Diaz, who lives in Oaxaca, has been visiting us. She loves to prepare desserts and one day I came home to find this delicious treat sitting on the kitchen counter, ready to cut for an after dinner delectable. If you’re calorie-watching, think twice! This recipe uses sweetened condensed milk.


1 – 12 oz. can evaporated milk (I use low-fat or non-fat)

1- 12 oz. can sweetened condensed milk

the juice of 4-6 fresh limes

2 tubes of Marias (approximately 24 cookies)

In a blender, combine the evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk and lime juice. Blend until the mixture is very thick. The next instruction is counter-intuitive: if the mixture isn’t thick, then you need to add more lime juice. It should be the consistency of cake batter.

Layer a base of the Marias (cookies) in a large rectangular glass baking dish. Spoon the batter over the cookies to just cover them. The cookies should be touching. Add another layer of cookies, then spoon more batter to cover. Continue layering the cookies and spooning the batter until you reach the top of the dish. Cover with plastic wrap and freeze for at least 7 hours. Bring out and let sit for five minutes before cutting into squares. Serves 10-12.

Note: You can find Marias in the Mexican food section of the supermarket or at a Mexican specialty grocery store. If you can’t find the Marias, then you can substitute vanilla wafers.

Topping Options: Sprinkle with chopped nuts, banana slices, canned peaches or fresh fruit.  I might make a gelatin using the canned peaches including the juices they’re packed in, and when it is semi-firm, pour it over the cake as a topping and freeze until it’s set up.

Glorious Color: Dyeing Workshop — Using Natural Materials

One and Two-Day Workshops in Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca, Mexico

If you are a weaver, a knitter, interested in cloth and textiles and you want to explore the world of natural dyes, you are invited to the famous rug-tapestry weaving village just outside of the city of Oaxaca. We offer this hands-on workshop for one or several people working with the master weaving family of Federico Chavez Sosa, his son Eric and daughter Janet. All instruction is in English.

Day 1: Explore the World of Cochineal

You will learn traditional Zapotec dyeing methods to prepare three shades of cochineal color – red, orange and maroon, learning the chemistry of color and the use of mordants. The Chavez family will explain the history of cochineal, and how it is cultivated and processed. You will see experiments with the “bug in the rug” and then practice using the color yourself to prepare glorious colors with hand spun wool from the Mixtec highlands of Oaxaca.

On the first day you will prepare three skeins of wool (200 grams each), wash it, assemble the cochineal and mordants, grind the cochineal on the traditional mortar, cut and squeeze limes that are used to adjust the color. During this time, you will come to understand the differences between natural and synthetic dyes and the mordant (fixing) process, dye with a neutral Ph to produce a maroon color, dye with an acid Ph to yield an orange, and dye with an alkaline Ph to achieve a purple or pink color depending upon the natural color of the wool selected.

This is a six-hour workshop. The cost is $160 per person including instruction and all materials.

Day 2: Explore the World of Indigo

You will learn the history of the indigo plan and how it is used to dye wool with traditional Zapotec recipes. As with the cochineal workshop, you will prepare the wool and the dye stuffs. We will use the Muicle plant that grows in the dry valley of Oaxaca, prepare the solution and dip the skeins until we reach the desired level of color intensity using the oxidizing method. You will also learn the theurea dioxide process, a different dyeing method.

This is a four-hour workshop. The cost is $130 including instruction and all materials.

You can enroll in a one or two-day workshop. Workshops are custom scheduled according to your availability and travel plans. Each participant will prepare and take home three skeins each of cochineal dyed wool and indigo dyed wool.

We also offer weaving workshops! and can refer you to great lodging in the village.

To Register: Contact or (919) 274-6194.