Sunday, January 25, 2015

the Sunday Post

It's cool and cloudy here today which is good for the plants but not so good for the wet laundry.  Eve is here chipping away on the tiles, turning the bathrooms into things of beauty and delight.  I'll probably go down to Chuy's puesto in a couple of hours to order some fish para llevar (take out) for our comida.  I don't want to ask Eve to stop work so we can have a seaside lunch; we'll do it here instead.

Yesterday was quiet, also.  No workers in the house, La Boheme streaming via CapRadio in Sacramento, lovely shrimp salad (thanks, Dago).  Then a quick domino game with Sibyl and  a delicious tomato, cheese and basil tart.  I had some cottage cheese that was fast approaching its "sell by" date and this was a perfect way to use it.  Recipe actually calls for ricotta but I like the results with cottage cheese instead.

I prefer using the Roma tomatoes we get down here; they hold their shape better and have a nice acidic flavor when cooked.  Mr. C prefers the big Sinaloas that we get in late March or April.  They're more like a Beefsteak but I think they're too big.  No matter which you use it's mighty tasty.

A propos of absolutely nothing, I love this photo of g'son Andrew and his girlfriend Arielle.  It was taken at some function they attended last December (note the black tie!) and then photoshopped over a picture of Big Ben and the London skyline.  He's there now; got a short message from him while he was on a train to Bournmouth for business.  We hope to see him in late May in situ.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

much better, thanks

I have recovered from whatever ailed me on Monday and have spent the last two days in a frenzy of activity.  Early Tuesday morning we took off for Tecoman to do a long list of errands.  The first one was to the hardware store over on the far side of the city.  Our search was for a couple of mezcladoras for the new sinks.  We found just what we wanted; you'll see them in the "After" photos when the bathrooms are done.  Then it was back into the middle of town to relieve our bank of the burden of some of our money so we could carry one shopping.  Next stop was the big nursery for two bags of dirt and two new bougainvilleas to replace the very old one that finally died over the summer.  Deep, bright purple.  Omar will dig holes tomorrow and we'll get them into the ground so we can enjoy them this season (or until they die, whichever ends first).  Next was a usual stop at the Bodega market for odds and ends.  Home for lunch, dominoes at 2 PM (I didn't win), then an enjoyable happy hour in the puesto with fellow players.

Wednesday we left home at 9 AM for the trek up to Colima for yet another day of shopping, etc.  We had been warned of the traffic problems due to road construction but it wasn't bad at all.  We arrived at the front door of the tile shop at just aabout 10 AM after having to circle around for a parking place.  The big mall across the street has been completely remodeled, the underground market is gone, the free parking lots are gone and it's now a very upscale, slick plaza.  We found all the tiles we wanted, waited around while they were fetched from the warehouse, finally got them and we were on our way.  Next stop was WalMart for more shopping of essentials; bleu cheese for Mr. C, some genuine Italian tomatoes in cans ~ a miraculous find last year and they had more (or more of last year's) this year.  We bought all they had.  They're probably breathing a sigh of relief that those old cans are gone!  But the Mexican do not sell canned tomatoes.  Don't know why; Lord knows they have plenty of the essential ingredient.

Next we went on to the equipal furniture maker and  ordered new fabric for the sofa and the love seat.  They are now 14 years old and need some refurbishing. 


Love seat

They will come to the house either tomorrow or Saturday to pick up the pieces (we have no big transport as you may recall) and bring them back in a week or so.  New color scheme.  Now I need new pillows . .

It was now about 1 PM and we drove over to our favorite Cronos for lunch with Mr. and Mrs. Neighbor Nelson who were also taking care of business in Colima.   Delicious crepes, cold beer.  We left about 2 o'clock and buzzed right along, no traffic UNTIL . . . UNTIL . . . a dead stop just over the top on the hill on the way down (fortunately).  Thirty-five minutes later the long, long line began to inch forward.  Accident.  It looked like a container had slid off a flat bed truck and overturned.  No evidence of the truck, however.  Just the container.  We finally got past it and it was smooth sailing all the way home.

Today we did nothing.  Eve showed up to check out the tiles I had bought but didn't stay to work.  He had to do the final tweaking on the pool surround at G & K's.  Tomorrow he'll be here at 8 PM.  Fernando stopped by; surgery postponed until tomorrow.  Mañana.  I am still reading the same book I've been dealing with for about three weeks.  Every time I start I fall asleep.  But I'm almost half done so I can't quit now.  Besides, I'm intrigued!

No interesting photos to put up.  Too busy.  So here's a little shot of my fledgling herb garden out on the balcony.  Oregano on the left, thyme on the right.  Both flourishing.  Both so fragrant and tasty.

Monday, January 19, 2015

sick day

Feeling sick since returning from tianguis so no post.  Tummy I think.  Maybe tomorrow.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

from my lips to his ear

A couple of weeks ago I mentioned to Fernando that the shrubs/trees in the lot across the street had gotten so big over the past two or three years that they obscured our view.  These "trees" start out as spiky shrubs that grow into spiky trees and are almost indestructible.  This is what the walled lot across the street looked like.

This is from the 3rd fl.; view not so affected
Our plans for tomorrow were to head off to Tecoman to our favorite big hardware emporium to buy two faucets to go with the new sinks.  Eve showed up right on time but we thought it would be OK to go anyway.  The next thing was a phone call from Fernando asking how many of the trees I wanted taken out.  What?  Yes, he had arranged with Javier (who lives next door and runs a saw mill in town) and a couple of his workers to clear cut the lot.  Now this complicated things.  One has to respect the sensibilities of various workers.  Enough said.  So we changed our plans and decided we'd go in the afternoon, although the store closes at 3 PM on Saturday.  Well, needless to say we didn't go anywhere.  The cutting took about 4 hours, using machetes and a chain saw.  But what a difference (even though it's the ugliest wall in town).

There's more clean-up to be done but it seems so much lighter and airier in the living room.  The piles of greenery you see inside the lot will be hauled out and, of course, burned on the street after it dries out.  As long as I'm not doing laundry on that day . . . All of this work cost about $75 and worth every penny.

One of the setbacks to this operation was that the electric lines ran right through one of the trees.  Fernando was very careful about cutting out the branches surrounding the line but we think it was being held up by the branches alone!  Sure enough, we lost power to the downstairs.  But a couple of hours later one of the electric company workers was fussing around the lines up on a cherry-picker and restored power.

Meanwhile, Eve was finishing up the downstairs bath (it looks fabulous!) and moved on upstairs to start the demo on the second one.   Since we need more tiles and the faucets, he won't be back until Thursday.  We're going up to Colima on Wednesday to visit a terrific tile place that sells the handmade artisanial tiles we love. 

One new addition to the furniture mix:  new table for the upstairs.  I had a ratty old square equipal table that was an embarrassment .  I got a local carpenter to remove the top, save the woven base and add a round top to seat six.  Perfect for dominoes!

I listened to "The Merry Widow" yesterday.   Enjoyed it greatly.  Made me want to get up and waltz!  Next Saturday, "La Boheme" to jerk your tears.

A beautiful and colorful winter sunset.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

then and now

Living at the beach can present some retail challenges, as I no doubt have mentioned before.  Back "then" if you could get 3 of the things from your list of 12 in only 4 hours, you felt you had triumphed.  And for usual shopping ~ marketing, I should say ~ you had to go to either Manzanillo or Colima  There was little or nothing in Tecoman and only the tianguis on Monday in Armeria.  This "old times" always reminds me of daughter Cait who, at bedtime story time, would say to her father, "Dad, tell be about the olden days when you were a boy down on the farm."  He was 30.

But a new day has dawned here on the Costa Alegré.  Now there are supermarkets galore, specialty shops, liquor stores, etc.  So when we started out this morning we were absolutely sure we could get everything on the list taken care of.  Almost.

1.  Call Fernando to check on surgical dates.  Yes, next Monday.  Can we take you or pick you up?  No, he has four brothers who will take care of that.

2.  Head off to La Bodega to check the wine stock before heading into Tecoman.  Managed to buy a few bottles but the favorite Chilean wine is nowhere to be found.

3.  Go to the bank.  Get a load of cash.  Worked fine.

4.  Haircut for Mr. C.  Took 20 minutes, cost 50 pesos ($3.50).  Looks fine.

5.  Walk over to get bacon and cheese at the Italian deli-type store.  Done.

6.  Back to car and head to the Construama ferriteria for plumbing and tiling supplies.  Done.

7.  Around the corner is the nursery for soil.  No room in car.  Next time.

8.  To frozen meat store to see if they have any sort of "American" cuts of meat.  No time.  Next visit.

9.  Bodega again for more shopping now that we have some cash.  Took about 1/2 hour to take care of that business.  Done and out of there by 11:45.  Good timeing all around.

You can see how much progress has been made.  In 3 hours we got 7 of our 9 chores done and would have done more but for the  size of the car.

Workers didn't come back this afternoon but we will expect them tomorrow.  Spend afternoon reading my book; I'm finally about 1/4 through it.  Seems like I've been reading it for weeks.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

more of the same

Bright and early this morning Eve showed up for more demo of the downstairs bathroom.  I'm documenting the progress and will put up the pix  when it's all done.  He and I talked about some designs, colors, etc.  It's going to be fabulous!  Muy loco downstairs and a bit more refined upstairs, in a Mexican sort of way.

Next Fernando arrived to check on the progress of the pump installation.  No, Elias has not been back.  He called my attention to the poison pellets he brought, showed me how to seed the crab's mounds, and hurried off.  His surgery is scheduled for next Monday and he has lots to do before then.

Mr. C decided he was not imperative to the demo downstairs so took himself off to Armeria to pay the year's taxes and water delivery fee.   While he was off doing "important" work I bustled around in the kitchen preparing our dinner.  The first item was to make a mirepoix as a base for the pork loin roast.  A couple of weeks ago I got a message from one of my readers about my previous reference to a mirepoix:  "I don't want to look ignorant to all the people who read this blog but WHAT is a mirepoix?  Can you show me?"  Yes, here it is, a tiny dice of celery, onions, carrots.  I also added a dice of half a green pepper, a yellow banana pepper (medium hot), and some cilantro.

Is that a beautiful dice or what??
 Mr. C came home with the receipts for the taxes and water and also bearing a lovely bouquet of flowers for me.  They perk up the sala beautifully.  Upon his arrival I took off to go see G & K's pool with its surrounding mosaics along the lower edge done by Eve.  Fabulous!

The pool; sea in front, casita behind, main house to the right

 All these "scenes" are typical of life here in this seedy little Mexican beach town.  The whales and pelicans, the beach umbrellas, the volcanoes in Colima ~ one hot, one cold ~ that can be seen from the road into Tecoman.  He did a wonderful job depicting them all.

After this visit I went home for lunch.   Not half an hour later Elias showed up with the newly cleaned and refreshed pump.  For about an hour there was a whole lot of clanging and banging coming from the bodega where the pumps are housed.  I thought he was probably trying to fit a square peg in a round hole and wasn't going to give up until it fit!  But he eventually came upstairs and said (I think, because he's very hard to understand because he talks SO fast and really barks out his words) that it was all fixed, worked fine and that would be 400 pesos ($28) for basically two days' work.  Needless to say we paid him more and off he sped.  We believe in keeping people like Elias very happy; you never know when you're going to need them ASAP.

Eve and his workers finished up preparing the downstairs bathroom for its tiling.  They built a new housing for a smaller basin, completely stripped the walls and countertops of old tiles and laid down a sort of mottled finish that will hold the tile glue (pegamento), the tile and the grout (lechada).  We'll buy that tomorrow in Tecoman.

That was the end of today's commercial doings.  The pork loin came out of the oven after four hours, tender and juicy.  Topped off with some of Mr. C's strawberry ice cream for dessert.  Perfect.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

all in one day

How much action can one expect in a day?  Well, we had our share today.  Here's the story.

The morning started easily enough.  First some nice coffee to wash down the usual dry, relatively tasteless pan integral muffins I bought at yesterday's market.  Then some bustling about getting the house tidied up for Chuy's 10 o'clock arrival to clean.  I thought I'd take a shower first, get it out of the way, etc.

WHAT?? No water?  But we've been pumping water from the cistern into the tinaco every other day.  Mr. C checks; no water in the tinaco.  Que paso?  So call Chuy and tell her that she doesn't have to come this morning because there's no water.  Well, she'll send Fernando over immediately.  He arrives, checks things out, thinks it's the pump switches that control water from the well and the cistern.  There is indeed a loose wire but even when fixed the pumps don't work  This is definitely a job for Elias!  Fernando goes off to hunt him down.   After conferring with him in an animated conversation, one with a lot of hand waving and head scratching, Fernando heads off to Armeria to buy new parts for the switches.

Next to arrive is Chuy to clean anyway.

Then Jaime arrives to give us the estimate on the painting job.  He and I discuss how much paint to buy ~ A LOT~ and what color goes where.  I will paint numbers on the walls to let him know if it's #1 (the darkest), #2 (the medium) or #3 (the lightest).  Yes, a paint by numbers operation.  He gives me the estimate (I am stunned by how reasonable it is to paint a 3 story house and redo the living room walls and paint it and the kitchen.)  I smile, we shake hands, he leaves saying he'll be back about the 10th of February to start.  The interior work will take about two weeks because of the time it takes for the stripped walls to age enough for painting.  I shoot off an email to Al confirming we can rent his apartment.  He says OK.

Meanwhile Fernando returns with the new switch box, this one all plastic with NOTHING to rust.  He's happy, I'm happy.

Then Elias shows up to dope out what's what with the pumps.  He soon discovers that the city water pump is basically buried in sand.  Why?  The infestation of land crabs.  They live underground in the sand and had burrowed into the pump room.  Here is what their presence looks like.

I saw these sand piles a couple of days ago and knew exactly what they were.  Before we cemented the front garden I would see evidence of the crab invasion.  Now you can see what it looks like.  But these little critters had gotten into the pump area, clogged up the works and shut down the cistern pump.  Elias gets busy digging out the sand ~ it smells awful ~ then disconnects the pump and takes it away to clean it.  BUT, by this time the well pump is working fine.  Then he tells Fernando that what he bought isn't the right thing so Fernando goes back to Armeria to buy a different control box and some poison to take care of the crabs.  He returns, leaves the new switch box and the poison on the front table and disappears.  He has a doctor's appointment in Manzanillo to find out when he's scheduled for knee surgery.  He'll be out of commission for about 6 weeks.

Meanwhile, I still haven't had my shower.   Mr. C and I rig up the hose to go up into the tinaco to fill from the well.  Works just fine.  So I finally get to have my shower, flush the toilet, wash the dishes, etc.

The next thing is the arrival of Eve (a-vay) ~ short for Everado ~ the tile maestro, to see what needs to be done in the two half baths.  We talk about tiles, designs, colors, the basins, etc.  Basically I turned it over to him and said, in essence, "you do it!"  With someone as talented and artistic as he is that's the best way.  When can you start?  How about this afternoon?  Fine, I say.  He leaves and I haven't seen him again.

I went off to the Tuesday domino group thinking that by the time I got home the two bathrooms would have been demolished.  Got home.  Nada.  It's possible mañana.  But that's OK because we have to buy more tiles, some pegamento (grout) and new faucets.

Tomorrow this madness may start all over again, except for Jaime who is working on another job out in the colonia.  We expect to see Fernando, Elias and perhaps Eve.  Meanwhile, here what the evening sky looked like off the balcony on this very busy day.