Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Anannya Chowdhury - An Interview of a Bengali Artist

Anannya Chowdhury Artist
Photo by Leticia Alaniz © 2015
A few years ago, on a trip to India, I came across a village of artists living in beautiful clay houses baked over the years by the sun that were hand decorated with an amazing array of designs and bright colors.  What made the village standout is it’s collection of folk art seen throughout the entire village which is located in the state of Bihar, aptly named Madhubani, which literally translates to forests of honey.  The artists create an art form that is named after the village and its roots can be traced back to epic periods, perhaps during the time of the Ramayana, when the ruling king commissioned artists to paint the walls at the time of the marriage of his daughter Sita, to Lord Ram.  A couple of pieces of Madhubani art painted on hand made paper are part of my art collection which remind me of my unforgettable experience.  

By chance, I visited an art gallery in Texas that was hosting an exhibit of art which mostly displayed modern, abstract, mixed-media pieces, but there was one that stood out from the rest.  It was a painting in a palette of very bright colors that was abstract, yet it could easily be interpreted by a narrative that can be described as romantic and dreamy.  It contained all the elements of the folk art made in the Madhubani village in India.  I contacted the artist from the painting and we agreed on a visit to her home and studio.  

Anannya Chowdhury Artist
Photo by Leticia Alaniz © 2015
When I arrived, the first thing that came to my mind was how warm, inviting, artistic and fragrant her home felt.  There was the smell of flowers, candles, incense and best of all indian home cooking!  Within moments I was welcomed and was offered a glass of sweet coconut water.  It was heavenly!  Not only did we talk about art, gardening, colors, passion, music, and history, but we talked about her grandmother’s and her mother’s recipes which are very dear to Anannya’s heart.  Anannya has a connection to her family back in India thru cooking and her love for them is felt in the flavor of her dishes.  As we started talking, I could tell that I was in for a trip to the past, to ancient culture, to Anannya’s story, to her India. 

Anannya Chowdhury is an artist with a vibrant personality that is reflected in all the art she creates.  Her voice and sentiment can be felt and heard in her pieces that are meticulously painted with small brushes and lined in a way that your eyes gravitate to take a closer look at all the fine detail.  Folk art and Indian history run deep for Anannya and her style almost always includes India in the heart of her paintings.
A Rainbow Peacock on a Rainy Day by Anannya Chowdhury
Photo by Leticia Alaniz © 2015
Leticia: Thank you for welcoming me into your home for a personal visit to your studio.  It’s not very often that I meet an artist that reflects the folk art that India is famous for.  I’m very exited to meet you and even more exited to see more of your art.  Tell me more about yourself.  Where were you born?  What were your surroundings like?

Anannya: I'm originally from the eastern part of India from a place called Calcutta.  I'm a Bengali and Bengalis are the natives from Calcutta.  I was however born in Meghalaya, which is at the most north-eastern part of India.  Meghalaya means “the abode of clouds”, it's called that because it is a mountainous region with rich stretches of valleys and it's the wettest place on earth, rainfall is always part of the landscape.  The Meghalayan forests are considered to be among the richest botanical habitats of Asia.  Meghalaya is popularly called the Switzerland of India, a beautiful, green, colder part of India and my mother’s forefathers are settled there.  My father is a mechanical engineer and he worked as an executive for a top oil company.  Due to his job, we had to travel and live in several places in India.  The majority of the time, I was raised in Mumbai, the most modern, cosmopolitan city in the country, just like New York of America.  I studied at Mount Mary High School, a convent traditional school.  I was exposed to different cultures within India and I developed a very modern outlook on society and life.  I was brought up speaking fluent English and I also studied french and it was a very interesting expereince to study a foreign language.  

Leticia: What was your childhood like?  Was your family very traditional?  I know how different girls can be raised from boys.  Did you feel your parents support in what you wanted to do in life?

Painting by Anannya Chowdhury
Photo by Leticia Alaniz © 2015
Anannya: I was brought up in an environment where a girl of the family must know how to
sing, dance, act, cook and should have long hair.  So family expectations were that I must be married by a certain age.  But art and culture was alway a part of our upbringing.  However, I was always more interested in creating art, which included watercolors, craft work, embroidery, ceramic and clay, foil, sand art, and much more.  I was always doing something and my spare time was for creating anything that came to mind.

Leticia:  Did you have any formal training on drawing, design or did you go to a fine arts school?

Anannya: I'm a self taught artist and I simply just enjoyed creating art.  When I was in the third grade, I knitted a baby sweater by myself for my neighbor’s five month old baby girl.  I made a miniature clay kitchen that included all small kitchenware with mud and glue.  It was so much fun because I made a lot of clay kitchenware for other kids in my neighborhood and we played with the sets.  

Anannya: After ten years in Mumbai, my fathers job required us to move to Vadodara in the state of Gujarat.  

Leticia: Yes, I'm familiar with that city.  It’s the city characterized by packed bazaars and clusters of barricaded houses.

Anannya: That's right, they're houses known as pols, which is a form of housing that compromises many families of a particular group, like caste, profession, or religion.  You can see most of those in the old part of the city called Ahmedabad.

Anannya: In Vadodara I completed my undergraduate degree in Clinical Psychology from the Maharaja Sayajiro University and soon after I taught painting and craft work to autistic children.  In the meantime I was always learning and trying new mediums.  I used to participate in art events and even won awards!  It was the feeling of creating, the passion that I so much enjoyed.  

Painting by Anannya Chowdhury
Photo by Leticia Alaniz © 2015
Anannya: You asked me about family expectations and traditions… In India, when a girl is just starting to complete her undergraduate and has reached marriageable age between 18 to 25 years, I was expected to get married and go to my husband’s home.  That was the indian tradition back then, but of course things have changed a lot now in modern times.  I got married as tradition dictates in an arranged marriage and moved to the United States in 2001, where I was expected to start a new happy life.  I arrived in Minneapolis, Minnesota during the worst snow storm I have ever seen in my life.  I was very afraid as I came from a hot region of India, to the iceland of Minnesota.  Unfortunately, things didn’t turn out as I expected and I stopped creating art for twelve long years due to my unhappiness and trouble in my marriage and consequently divorce.  I believe in never giving up and I managed to get strength and stayed in America and started a new life.  

Leticia:  It's never good to give up on a passion which in your case is art and the result of that was your unhappiness, but I’m so happy that you're now in a much better position.  What were your dreams then and what are they now?

Anannya: I believe in never giving up and I decided to stay in America and my dream was to have a new beginning.  I'm now a full time professional artist and I’m very happy, very proud of my accomplishments.  My work is admired by many galleries here in Texas and my work is beginning to be recognized and receive awards.  I always had the admiration from my parents and my brother who has been a huge support.  My dream is to be able to serve as an example especially to more women, after every misfortune there is hope to start a new life and follow your dreams and passion.  I’m finally starting to paint again after twelve years and have been successful so far.  My future dream is to open my own gallery and studio where I can sell my paintings and craftwork,  and to promote culture and diversity.  I promote colors to make people happy.  I believe happy colors, brings happy thoughts.  

Leticia: What do you feel makes your work unique and truly your own?

Anannya: My artwork is very colorful, vibrant and very detailed.  I don’t use pens or markers.  I work on modern designs with traditional detail that employs an array of colors, patterns and a unique different style all together.  I call it Artmantras and so I named my website  The word mantra has two parts: man - which is the root of the sanskrit word word for mind, and tra - which is the root of the word for instrument.  Artmantra is therefore an instrument of the mind which can serve to enter a deep state of creativity and rejuvenation. 

Leticia: From where do you draw inspiration?

Anannya: Firstly, I draw inspiration from my mother.  I always want her to smile and every time I exhibit or win an award, she is simply smiling.  That's what makes me very happy to keep going.  I also feel I want to set an example that life is all about following your passion, about standing up and never giving up.  I'm a firm believer in being optimistic.  I want to keep growing in my art world, and simply I love the feeling I get when I paint and create. 

Painting by Anannya Chowdhury
Photo by Leticia Alaniz © 2015
Leticia:  I agree with you on following one’s own passions.  I believe it is the basis for our inner happiness which in turn makes us successful.  There is a quote by Dalai Lama that I hold dear and follow like a commandment, “Happiness is not something ready made.  It comes from your own actions.”  Anannya, I believe you can agree on this quote too!  Which brings me to your creative process.  What is the process like for you?

Anannya: My creative process starts with a clean canvas.  I think about highlighting another person or what feeling the person will get when they see the finished painting.  My artwork has lots of curved lines, patterns and small detail.  I love challenge on my canvas.    

Leticia:  Some of the continuous line work in your work seems as if it is moving… truly flowing… What has been the most challenging to you on becoming an artist and selling your work?

Anannya: Thank you for observing movement in my work!  I cannot say that selling my work has been very challenging, but I have made it my personal goal to create awareness in the western world.  India’s culture is not just about curries or the export of IT engineers, it’s also a rich and colorful culture that has a long tradition of vibrant folk art that can bring a  splash of color into your home.  I do have a style that is a fusion of west and east and I’m very proud of my work and uniting both cultures.  

Leticia: I appreciate and love indian folk art and of course it reminds me of the folk art from my own mexican culture.  We have a lot of similarities.  

Leticia: What art do you most identify with or what artists can you name that influence your work?

Anannya: I'm fascinated by indian Nobel Laureate, Rabindranath Tagore and his paintings.  I also feel inspired by the Shantiniketan style of art that was started as a school of art by Tagore from Calcutta, India.  When I came to America, I loved the work of painter Van Gogh.  I love his curves and certain patterns that he painted because my work is mostly lots of symmetrical patterns and curves. 

Leticia: What does your cultural background mean to you and how do you apply that to your art?

Annanya: In India, we celebrate colors.  From colorful spices to clothing, to sweets and colorful homes.  We love to be surrounded by color.  My mission is to expose indian art to this part of the world as I believe art must travel for everyone to know about other parts of the world.  I do many types of ancient art work like madhubani folk art.  It is a painting technique well over 2,500 years old.  I also do ethnic embroideries from the eastern part of india such as kantha - from Calcutta and kathi - from Gujarat, India.  Foil art, this is my favorite… And sand-art, wood, ceramics in which I incorporate indian motifs.  I do paint a lot of peacocks.  I am very passionate about peacocks!

Painting by Anannya Chowdhury
Photo by Leticia Alaniz © 2015
Leticia:  I can see that in your work!  I also love peacocks.  We used to have a neighbor that had a flock of them in his yard.  When a peacock fluffed the train of his iridescent feathers it was such a majestic sight.  It’s such an intricate display of art on a bird!

Leticia: Does religion play a role in your work?

Anannya: No, religion doesn’t play any part, but you can see some of my foil work display motifs of indian gods or goddesses.  Foil work requires extreme detailing and nothing seemed better than to depict gods.  I was born and raised a hindu, but my outlook on religion is kind and accepting.  I love to learn form everything I come across.  I also practice daily meditation and chanting called “Nam myoho range kyo” thru which I have learned to bring out my potential.  My artwork is really a dedication to my mother’s love.  Every time I’m selected in an exhibit I make sure my Ma smiles a little more than yesterday.  It keeps me going.  

Leticia:  What would you say your personality type is?

Anannya: I like simplicity in life and so I'm honest, it makes things simple in life.  I’m an extremely focused person.  I have my dreams and vision and what I will do next.  I'm a perfectionist by nature and bring that into my artwork.  I believe that everything is possible only by the art of positive thoughts.  I love enjoying little pleasures in life from a cup of indian tea (chai) in the morning to taking a walk in the evening.  I am not a person to sit and stress over something because I believe in myself, my dreams and the justice of god.  I know I’m on the right path to succeed.  After all what you believe in is what you get.  I have a good sense of humor and I love to laugh, watch comedy movies, and be simple and nice to everyone.  I love life and everything about my life.  

Leticia: With such a positive outlook on life there is no doubt your dreams will become a reality.  Part of that reality is the opportunity to take  your art to the next level, that is to exhibit.  Where was your first art piece exhibited?

Anannya: My first exhibit was at the Fort Worth Community Arts Center and I'm very proud of that.  Soon after that I was invited to exhibit my work in other galleries and collective exhibits.  One of the most memorable responses was to receive a recognition at TVVA- Texas Visual Art Association.  I was selected as a winner and received the Honorary Mention Award which to my delight included a trip to Spain to exhibit my art there.  I also received the Honorary Mention Award from Mckinney in the textile  art category.  It brings me so much joy when people ask me about the type of art I do.  I t gives me the drive to keep going!  

Traditional Bengali Cuisine from the recipes of
Anannya Chowdhury
Photo by leticia Alaniz © 2015
Leticia: I support you to keep going too as your talent is expressed in every piece you create!  Congratulations on all of your awards and I hope all your dreams continue to come true!  Thank you very much for such a wonderful and colorful experience and for inviting me into your home to enjoy seeing up close your most personal art pieces.  Thank you for such an exquisite traditional Bengali lunch that I know are very special recipes that have been for generations in your family.  I will hold very dear to my heart the memory of the taste of these dishes and this very special day.  

Anannya:  It has been my pleasure and I'm so exited and pleased that you came to visit
me.  It is so good to meet you!  I'm so happy that you liked my cooking.  I really cherish your company.   Thank you!

Leticia: I will close with a quote by Rabindranath Tagore whom has been very influential in your creative process that talks about color in life,

“Clouds come floating into my life, no longer to carry rain or usher storm, but to add color to my sunset sky.” - Rabindranath Tagore 
In the home of artist Anannya Chowdhury © 2015

Thursday, May 14, 2015

My Relationship With Words And The Camera

Leticia Alaniz At Her Writing Desk ©2015
It probably would have never occurred to me to write had I not been exposed early in my life to literature and films.  Two of my loves!  I have always enjoyed expressing ideas and finding solutions to stories and building on the backbone of a plot whether they were in novels, film scripts or plays.

Often, I secretly find myself analyzing scenes in a film and writing my own mental outcome if a film is lacking a little in depth or perhaps stronger character development.  There are so many remarkable writers that I hope to learn from and many new writers that I hope to live long enough to read and keep adding to my reading list.

Several years ago, I was at an audition in Los Angeles for a film.  Following the audition, I had a few days with nothing to do so I ventured out to the USC School of Cinematic Arts where many of the most amazing scriptwriters gather to develop their craft.  I wandered around several of the buildings and the hallways and stumbled upon a door leading to a screening room that had a hand written sign on the door that read: Screening for the film Glengarry Glenn Ross.  It is the film adaptation directed by James Foley of one of my favorite Pulitzer Prize plays written by David Mamet.  The screening was for students of the scriptwriting program and I assumed they were going to watch the film and then discuss with their professor a few scenes and the structure of the script.  I sat in the comfortable screening room, watched the film and enjoyed an amazing discussion afterwards.  I was drawn-in as if an imaginary rope pulled me in and I felt that is what I wanted to do in life.  

My relationship with words is intimate, yet scanning thru pages and pages I sometime find a word that entices me to fixate my thoughts on it’s meaning and writing it down on paper; even if it means the only purpose is to see how it looks in a sentence or on a blank page.  Sometimes, a good word may inspire me to write a letter to a friend and drop it in the mailbox, or it may be plugged into a little story meant to be read out-loud to children.  Writing short, witty stories for children is also another one of my passions.  

Words can reveal our inner human voice, thoughts, emotions, passions, hopes, love or un-love, loneliness, joys, secrets,  and fears.  They can be raw or eloquent, disguised or violent, or sweet and poetic, they can capture time and place and even sweep us to ancient history.  Words paint a picture and transport us to places that perhaps we may never see in person.  Words also take on a life of their own in novels and jump onto the screen and become spoken giving them a voice with the moving picture.  Words come to life for an audience and that’s the magic of the collaboration of words and one of the most amazing inventions: the camera.  

I had heard a quote by playwright David Mamet that may ring true, “Art is an expression of joy and awe.  It is not an attempt to share one’s virtues and accomplishments with the audience, but an act of self spirit.”  Therefore, following my spirit is what I do.

Writing operates thru illusion and a story can be a direct expression of a writer’s beliefs and feelings.  If you ask me where I would like to be in life I will answer you like this: I’m at the place where I feel I need to be and where my desire to write is fulfilled.  I have many things I would like to accomplish: continue with my photography, cinematography, writing, traveling, accomplishing one project at a time, and that is a life’s work ahead.

Leticia Alaniz © 2015  

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Roasted Yellowtail with Mint Jalapeño Chimichurri

Roasted Yellowtail with Mint Jalapeño Chimichurri
Photo by Leticia Alaniz © 2015
Cooking fish can sometimes be daunting for many people.  It’s as if a monster has entered the kitchen, it has eyes, fins and a tail that look a little too real undermining our ability to accomplish any reasonable dish for dinner.  I have known many people that leave the cooking of fish to the professionals at restaurants rather than cook it at home.  But with fish on the menu in our own kitchens, come stories.  

My mother used to make us laugh when she cooked fish.  She always included a good dose of superstition that was well engrained in my mind for a long time.  Many of the superstitions are based on irrational beliefs and some are entertaining legendary folktales that are in any case great fun to hear.  There is one belief that says, en martes ni te cases ni te embarques, which translates to, on Tuesday don’t marry or leave port.  In ancient Roman mythology, Tuesday was dedicated to Mars, the god of war.  It was a day considered unlucky and therefore not a good day to undertake anything important, especially for the fisherman going out to sea.  

In our household my father always resolved any conflict or dilemma by saying, “Mejor me como un salmon”, which translates to, “I’ll just eat a salmon”.  He loved salmon and I think for him a good salmon dinner was much more worth the time than any argument on any given day.  I have to agree with him on that one and I kind of follow that rule too.  Sometimes, food does resolve everything!  

Fish was always on the table especially during lent.  Every Friday, there was a very strong and delicious aroma of fish in the house and my mother’s specialty was a wonderfully flaky white fish soup cooked with oregano from the garden.  My favorite part is that she served it with toasted, hot, buttered bolillo bread that was crusty on the outside and pillowy soft on the inside.    

Sometimes, the Friday traditional meal was at my grandmother’s house where my aunts and mother would gather with my grandmother to prepare the feast.  I’m not quite sure if it took all day, but it sure did seem like it, especially when the aromas captivate and put you in a sort of trance and you have to control your urge to steal a little morsel from the kitchen when they turn their back.  On those occasions, the fish feast was quite a big parade of dishes.  There was fish cooked in several ways.  Grilled on the flat iron or clay comal (the mexican flat griddle used to cook tortillas or roast spices, chiles and meats).  Cooked whole with lots of spices, achiote, and citrus juices, or marinated with herbs, chunky garlic and a paste of adobo, and then pan fried.  Or it was cut in chunks and covered in a fluffy, snow-white batter and fried in a fragrant chile oil.  That’s called a capeado and it’s the same batter that is used when making chiles rellenos, or stuffed poblano or jalapeño chiles.

Cooking fish isn’t difficult at all.   There are thousands of ways to prepare it and it’s so healthy!  Want to know a little secret?  Restaurants, especially the fancy ones take advantage that many people don’t cook fish at home and charge quite a bit of money for a fish that can easily be cooked.  Many fish don’t even take long to cook, at the most, in a pan on the stove six to eight minutes.  Some can be flash cooked on a very hot grill and dinner can be on the table in a matter of minutes.  So much time is spent working just to hand over the hard earned money to the restaurant industry.  Many families depend on restaurants for a fish dinner and that gets expensive because that is precisely the menu item that is overpriced.

Here is a look at a beautiful yellowtail fish recipe served with a mint-jalapeño chimichurri sauce and purple roasted potatoes.  I came up with the blackening recipe for the fish and the chimichurri sauce based on the ingredients I had at hand.  Both recipes turned out nothing short of spectacular.  As for the purple potatoes… they’re buttery, soft and they glisten like little purple amethyst jewels.  They’re so good!  

Yellowtail Fish
Photo by Leticia Alaniz ©2015

Yellowtail Roasted Fish

One or two whole Yellowtail fish, cleaned
2 tablespoons of chile powder (paprika)
1 tablespoon of garlic powder
1 tablespoon of onion powder
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon of cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon of dried oregano
1 tablespoon of crushed fenugreek seeds
kosher salt to taste
oil for cooking

Mint Jalapeño Chimichurri

1 large jalapeño seeded
3-4 garlic cloves (fat ones)
8-10 mint leaves
1 bunch of cilantro
2-3 sprigs of fresh dill
2 limes squeezed
3 tablespoons of white wine vinegar
1/2 cup of olive oil
salt to taste

Mint Jalapeño Chimichurri Ingredients
Photo by Leticia Alaniz © 2015


Place the yellowtail fish on a board and dry with paper towels.  In a small bowl combine the chile powder, garlic powder, onion powder, ground black pepper, cayenne pepper, oregano, fenugreek seeds and kosher salt and mix.  Coat the entire fish with the seasoning.  Drizzle a little cooking oil in a pan and let heat.  Dab a square or two of butter into the pan (don’t be afraid of butter).  Once hot, place the fish one at a time into the pan and let sizzle and blacken for about four minutes on each side.  It will become smokey, so ventilate your kitchen well or be prepared for your fire alarms to go off!  Remove the fish from the pan and place in a roasting pan  or large plate to catch the juices.  Season with a little kosher salt, it just feels good.  

To make the chimichurri it’s as simple as combining all the ingredients and pulsing in a blender 2 to 3 times.  Scrape down the sides and make sure te get all the ingredients combined.  Repeat the process until you get a thick sauce.  It will be a beautiful emerald green.  

Roasted Purple Potatoes 

Boil the potatoes whole with the skin on until tender.  Once they are soft but not too soft that they fall apart, take them off the stove and let cool a few minutes.  Slice them in big fat chunks.  Drizzle a little olive oil in a pan and heat.  Place the potatoes in the hot pan and proceed to roast them over medium high heat.  Season right over the pan to taste with freshly crushed black pepper, kosher salt and chile powder.  Dab at least three squares of butter on top and mix the potatoes and continue cooking for another five to six minutes.  They will start to glisten.  Taste for salt or eat a few on a little plate while you call the family for dinner.  That’s it!           

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Tamarind Margarita

Tamarind Margarita
Photo by Leticia Alaniz © 2015
Tamarind has a very rich legacy in Mexico, but it traveled a long way from tropical Africa and made it’s way into southern India before it reached the Realm of The New Spain.  It was the Arabs who then carried tamarind pods from India and introduced it to ancient Persia, now known as Iran, the Gulf region, and even back to Egypt.  Pulp from the pods was dried, made into paste, syrups, used in cooking and for medicinal purposes.   

Like all riches, especially those we can eat, tamarind reached Europe in medieval times, introduced by the Arabs.  The journey continued until the indehiscent legume (a legume that does not split open when ripe) finally arrived in Mexico, brought over during the colonization by the Spaniards.  The tamarind tree was soon cultivated with much success in the hot tropical states of Michoacán, Guerrero, Oaxaca and Chiapas.  

Growing up, especially during festive occasions, there were always many sweet, savory, spicy and tangy candies made with tamarind pulp.  There were those that came in little pots shaped like a jarrito, or the clay pots used to slow-cook beans and other delicacies.  The varieties are in the thousands, but another one of my favorites was a flat laminate-shaped tamarind paste called Pulparindo.  Then there are the all famous diablitos or little devils, aptly named because they are shaped like a small stone, it looks black, it is so sour and as many mexican candies, it is covered in lots of dried chile, salt and sugar and it makes your mouth water bringing out the inner child.  I don’t know why they are called diablitos, but I used to think it was because only the devil could be brave enough to eat those!  

Even the little ones start eating tamarind with chile at an early age.  In order for  their their little hands to hold a sweet and sour tamarind candy, there are the cucharitas, little spoons with the tamarind dried on and covered with sugar.  The sourness tickles their little tongues and they make cute, puckering faces as they eat them!

All types of Mexican savory dishes are prepared with tamarind pulp.  A loin in a rich tamarind sauce is one of my favorites.  Grilled fish or other types of seafood fare well too.  A velvety thick tamarind sauce called chamoy, is also used in a variety of ways.  It is poured over shaved ice, especially delicious in the hot summer.  It is made into paletas or popsickles, and it is cleverly drizzled to coat the inside of a glass, right before an icy cold beer is poured.  It takes everything to another dimension.

Below is classic Margarita made with the pulp of tamarind.  The flavor is very tart with a tropical sweetness.  It’s just perfect!


2 oz of Tequila Blanco (Herradura is a good choice)
1 oz of tamarind concentrate 
1 oz of triple sec or Cointreau
1/2 oz of Agave nectar or simple syrup
Lime for garnish (optional)


Coat the rim of a margarita glass or a rocks glass with a mixture of salt and dried chile, or if you prefer sugar, or even mexican Tajin fruit seasoning,  fill with ice and set aside.  Add the remaining ingredients to a shaker and fill with fresh ice.  Shake, and strain into the prepared glass.  Garnish with a lime wheel (optional).