Friday, December 31, 2010

what's you New Year's Eve drink?

Me, I'm bedding down with a nice bottle of NyQuil® to feed the nasty cold I have developed. Started with a sore throat yesterday morning, progressed to lots of sneezing, nose-blowing, coughing,moaning and groaning. I'm hoping things will be better tomorrow. I haven't had a cold in several years so I should complain too much - or should I?

From us to you, Prospero Año, make some good resolutions, drive carefully if you're out and about. For you opera lovers/listeners, tomorrow's live-from-the-Met presentation is Pelléas et Mélissande by Claude Debussy. Another long one; 5 acts. Starts an hour earlier (12 PM EST). I hope I can make it all the way through.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Christmas Day in Bozeman

This is the first Christmas for Cait and Mike's dogs. They took them out yesterday morning for a romp in this beautiful setting. According to the weather map it was 10º!

We harnessed up the dogs and went for an early morning x-country ski adventure. We did not see another person the entire time. It was cold, crisp and very refreshing.

This morning we went to a lovely brunch party at our friends Bobbie and Philip's house. We stayed on to play a rousing round of Mexican Train Dominoes (the women and Jack [one guest's husband]) while Philip and Mr. C played chess. Then it was another couple of hours of idle chat, lots of laughter and good fellowship. B & P have put their wonderful big house on the market; they want to move back to Ajijic ~ but we are all hoping it doesn't sell for at least three years. Not very generous hearted, are we. But they are such fun we will miss them greatly.

Soon it will be time to go to the taco wagon in the jardin for tacos de lengue to bring home. There are a few holiday visitors in town, mostly day-trippers. The hotels are dark and empty. However, I have been told revelers will begin trickling in by Tuesday or Wednesday for the New Year's Eve parties. I can wait. Meanwhile, it's sunny, quiet and very, very pleasant.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

on-time arrival

Unlike other grim stories of Christmas traffic problems and delayed or canceled flights, we had an on-time arrival at the crèche on our street early this morning. No snow storms, no angry and frustrated travelers. This morning dawned sunny and bright to greet the new baby. You will note, no doubt, that this "baby" is about the size of a 3 year-old. Ouch!

Last night's festive gathering was probably the best one yet! Delicious traditional (gringo) dinner ~ turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes, salads, veggies. Pies and cakes for dessert. Thirty of us gathered pool-side for a lovely celebration. We made some new friends ~ a delightful couple from Washington state who has just bought a house down in the colonia (the one previously owned by the Dutch couple we were so fond of) ~ greeted old friends whom we had not seen since our arrival, and welcomed others who had only recently arrived. It was a fine evening.

Merry Christmas to All!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Eve update

If I didn't know better, by looking outside I'd think I was in Morro Bay or Pacifica or some other mid-winter fog belt. Overcast and drippy. I know it will burn off eventually, probably before noon. I forget that this happens here at this time of year. After all, it IS winter! But enough of the weather. Here are the past few days (very thrilling) events.

We got up in the middle of the night on Monday to see the gorgeous lunar eclipse. We went up to the third floor, lay down on the cement bench and watched the show unfold above us. It was a blessedly clear night ~ stars everywhere, the big mood gradually turning a coppery red. Last time these two dates ~ Winter Solstice and lunar eclipse ~ coincided, Shakespeare was a baby!

Here's the equipale furniture we ordered. Picked it up a week ago. Looks so nice in the house and it's a much better arrangement with a larger, 4-person table.

Chairs around the table are those that I ferried down from home. IKEA.

The chair was in pretty bad shape. The back had been torn badly; it just got dried out and split. So we took it to the shop and asked if it could be repaired. Here's the result.

They did such a fine job we're going to take three more to be revived.

On Wednesday evening the village children had their Posada parade through the streets. The whole gang was there; Mary and Joseph in costume, the donkey (played by a very placid large dog on a leash). They knocked on the door, asking if they could stay for the night. The accompanying chorus told them no, sorry, no room in this inn. Their remarkably off-key little voices filled the air. After a resounding, ¡Feliz Navidad! I made the usual donation for their post-Posada party and off they went to the next prospective inn.

Meanwhile, down at the end of our street an enterprising group has erected a creche scene. I watched them constructing the "stable" out of palm wood beams and palm fronds.

Off to one side is a cluster of tiny figurines that are not really part of the traditional creche. Instead, they depict scenes of Mexican life of old. The woman in front is making tortillas. Miniature sheep are scattered around. (Please note the presence of the swan. That's a new one for me.)

The figures appear every afternoon, late, are there until after dark, and then are taken in for safekeeping. The Baby Jesus will appear for the first time at midnight tonight. Then he'll be there through January 6, La Noche de los Reyes Magos. Then it will all be packed away for another year.

Tonight is the traditional Christmas Eve party at Luly and Ed's house. Mr. C is making a rum-soaked pumpkin pie, I'm doing the floral decorations and bringing wine and four bags of ice. I got off easy this year. There will be about 30 guests. It's always a fine party.

Then as if all these festivities weren't enough, tomorrow, Christmas Day, the Met is presenting a tribute to James Levine on his 40th anniversary as music director. The performance will be from the archives: "The Bartered Bride" by Bedrich Smetana. Teresa Stratas, Nicolai Gedda, Jon Vickers to do the singing thing. A splendid Christmas gift indeed.

From our casa to yours, wherever you are, we wish you a very Merry Christmas and a blessed and peace-filled New Year.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Sunday in Suchitlan

We had a guest here for two nights while his apartment at the casa was occupied by renters. As a "thank you" he took us to lunch at Los Portales, a wonderful restaurant situated in an old coffee plantation in Suchitlan up in the hills outside Colima.

The seating is either outside under the coffee trees

or in a big covered patio that looks out on the other tables.

Mr. C and I both ordered chiles rellinos picadillo; Marie and Al both had Birria mixta, a stew of shredded beef and pork that you spoon into a tortilla, ladle on some of the spicy sauce, roll up and enjoy!

The restaurant was filled with gorgeous displays of noche buena flowers in amazing colors, even some striped ones.

This little town is famous for its mask-carvers, and the restaurant has many on display throughout. All of them are for sale. They decorate the walls of the patio; every time we go back there are new ones to tempt me.

It was an altogether lovely day. Good food, good things to look at, good fellowship. Thanks, Al.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

consider the talera

Mexico is not known for its fine breads. You get the traditional bollio, baked fresh two times a day, you get the Bimbo brand air bread, and you get taleras. These are made with the same dough that the bollios are made with but are handled and molded differently. They are more like a giant English muffin than a French roll. In this photo, the plate measures 7" in diameter, so you can see these are big!

And they are not easy to find. Most bakeries around here don't have them, or at least the ones they have aren't very good. The best ones come from a little vendor outside the indoor market in Manzanillo, but that's just to far to go to get one. However, a very charming gentleman who speaks a little bit of English drives his van (a new vehicle! Last year it was an old red truck. Things are looking up in the talera business) through town every evening about 7 o'clock with his loudspeaker advertising his baked goods. These include cookies and some breakfast things that resemble scones or soda bread. (This last item is so dry it takes every bit of moisture out of your mouth but they do very nicely with a big gulp of coffee.) We buy four taleras at a pop, spend 16 pesos (about $1.10) and they are absolutely delicious toasted and slathered with butter and jam. Plus they are brought fresh to our door. This morning I made a peanut butter/mayo/lettuce sandwich with one toasted. Brought me back to my beach days as a child in Newport Beach. Not a bad memory.

the twins go hunting

Sent by Caitlin this morning from snowy Montana:

Here is a great photo of "the boys" from this past weekend. Mike took them on their first pheasant hunt--mostly just to work on field commands. They did a great job, considering it was their first time. Two shots were fired at pheasants, and the dogs were not at all "gun shy", which was a big test. I love this photo of the dogs and Mike, who gives them their commands via hand gestures and whistles. Very fun to watch!

Friday, December 10, 2010

clean clothes and cold beer

Toñio the fix-it man came to the house to give a diagnosis on the washing machine and the fridge. He decided both could be fixed and set about doing so. First the washer. It was some sort of gear problem; it wouldn't "shift" into wash mode. Yes, he could buy and install a new one, no problem. Then upstairs to check out the refrigerator. Since it was under warranty he suggested we take it back for repairs. Are you kidding? First, how are we going to get it downstairs? Once there, what will we carry it in to go to Tecoman where we bought it? Third, what will we do for a fridge in the meantime? True, we should have gone to the store and told them we wanted a replacement. But I was not prepared to drive over there lugging my big Oxford Spanish dictionary and spend an hour haggling. The diagnosis was not so serious, actually. New infusion of Freon and we should be back in business. Toñio went away, said he'd be right back, and was at the front door in about half an hour. He took the washer apart, put in the new gear/timer, demonstrated that it was now running again, and was ready to tackle the fridge. It took several hours while the Freon recharged. Finally, about 6 o'clock he packed up his tools, handed us a bill, parts and labor, for 1600 pesos ($130) and everyone was happy. I did two loads this morning. Perfect. And there are now solid ice cubes and cold beer.

Two other items of note.

First, the death of the stalwart Elizabeth Edwards. Way too young. The first time i learned about her in 2004 I liked her immediately. The first time I learned about him in 2004 I didn't like him at all. Smarmy. She kept her cool, remained a gracious, graceful woman to the end.

Second, remember the birthday of the delightful grandson, Andrew? His mother sent me this photo taken of him on his 22nd birthday. Take a look.

And now it's time to don long pants to foil the bugs and head on down to the beach for dinner with friends at Dago's. I'll take the camera in case there's a good sunset.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

a big FedEx thank you!

All I did to deserve this spectacular bouquet of Bird of Paradise was to ferry down 6 boxes of Jello Instant Pudding (chocolate), three cartons of Japanese pickled ginger, and an envelope containing some bank business. These treasures went to one of the year-rounders. Her gratitude far outweighs the deed, I think! These beauties now reside in the sala and add a touch of exotica perfect for the seaside jungle.

Thanks, Maria.

Monday, December 6, 2010

an avocado a day

I'm down to two bars of reception on the internet so I better get this posted quickly!

Tianges this morning in a hurry because we had much to do today. I took my camera in case I saw the radish man ~ a lovely gent who brings the most gorgeous bouquets of radishes in his wheelbarrow. Yes, he was there but my camera battery was out of juice. So no photo. Next week, I hope. While Marie and I shopped, Mr. C drove into Tecoman to visit the ATM. When he got back we hunted down the new location of the Sol deposito for beer. The delivery guy hasn't figured out we're back! Saturday is his new day; we'll look for him then.

Home to deposit my purchases, including a bag of lovely strawberries and more avocados, then off to Colima to order a new equipale table and take the torn chair to be repaired. Again, I wanted to take a photo of the old chair but alas. . . Next week we will pick up the new table (950 pesos equals about $90) and the repaired chair for 300 pesos ($26). Have you priced equipale in the US? You can buy a nice chair for $179 or a table for $450! Next stop was lunch at our favorite spot; Kronos. Greek name, Mexican owners, French and Italian food. So delicious; crepes and beer. Then to WalMart for more things than we had originally planned. Then home. It was a very satisfactory day; we got all our chores done and were propped up for an afternoon of reading by 2:30.

We are prepared for the washing machine repair man tomorrow. Who knows when; none of this "Between 8-12 or 1-5" business. He comes when he comes. But if he can salvage the machine for another year, I can deal with his time schedule. It will probably cost 200 pesos and I can deal with that, too.

Today is our precious grandson's birthday. Andrew is now 22 years old. Seems only a moment ago when daughter Alex put this tiny bundle into my arms for the first time and it was absolutely love at first sight. Amazing. Happy Birthday, Andrew.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

season openers

I have internet this morning but who knows for how long. I discovered why it goes off. Javier's mother runs the town laundry (the antenna is on its roof) and every time she needs to run the dryer she unplugs the modem . . .

OK, it's now 6:30 and we've been without internet since I started my last post. Now that everyone's clothes are dry, we're back. So let's move on.

Today's excitement included discovering that the washing machine will not "agitate." It will fill, spin dry but not wash. So I took my wet and soapy wash to Marie (see above) and asked her to rewash everything but not to put it into the dryer. I would hang it out in my drying yard. So far, so good. She did as I asked and an hour later she showed up with a basket of wet clothes. It was clear from the scent that she had used a huge amount of soap that had not really rinsed out of the clothes. Plus they were gritty, as if there had been sand in the water. So we refilled our washer and tried to agitate the clothes by hand to get rid of both soap and sand. I spun them dry and hung them out. When I brought them in there was a fine dusting of sand all over everything. I have no idea where she gets her water or how many cups of soap she uses, but she told me her repair guy is coming on Tuesday and I asked her to send him on over. I am hoping he can figure out what's wrong with our machine, a real work horse for the past 10 years.

Let's go back to Friday.

We had dinner at Dago's on Friday night. Delicious as usual. Dago was his usual cheerful self, happy to see his contingent of winter gringos back for another year of good food and fellowship. It was a bit foggy so no great sunset photos. But they will come.

Saturday was spent doing what Saturday's are for; relaxing and reading. The pool at Jack's is not quite ready for swimming. He is still treating it after refilling it a few days ago. That will come soon, too.

Today we drove out to El Paraiso for lunch at the San Angel hotel with friends Helen and Linda. We had ferried down for them a 45 lb. box of "necessities" and they very kindly treated us to a lovely lunch as repayment. Beautiful setting right on the beach, delicious seafood, fine fellowship.

Tonight will be a light supper of salad and bread. Tomorrow is the market, plus in the afternoon we will go up to Colima to order a new round eqipal table and will take one of our chairs to be repaired. A quick stop at WalMart for things we can't get anywhere else, such as good butter. Then home. Tuesday the repair man comes to diagnose the washer; new or fix? Wednesday Rene comes to do so repair on the sliding screen doors; the little wheels have rusted and won't roll so we can't open them. Rust never sleeps.

This is how the time goes here. There's always something that has to be done to get the house back in working order.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

internet en plein aire

This is our computer set up for now. Mr. C has carried the LapMac all over the house, indoors and out, to find the perfect spot for reception. He tried several places on the 3rd floor, two or three on the 2nd floor, including sitting on the end of our bed, and decided this is the best place. It's outside our bedroom in the corner of the walkway. There is a perfect shot across our lot to the top of the laundry shop in the next street where Javier installed the antenna. It's not a bad location, either. I can see the ocean, watch the squirrels race across the fence line and leap into the palm trees, and keep my eye on the passing crowd (not much). I asked Neighbor Nelson's advice on how to fix our connection. He's the one who set it up in the first place. His instructions indicated a level of comprehension on my part that is sorely lacking so we'll just make do until his computer wizard son arrives in a couple of weeks.

Meanwhile, the bells and rockets greet us every morning at 5:30 and bid us good-night at 10 PM, all in celebration of the Virgin. Winter tenants are beginning to arrive; three more yesterday. The clan is gathering for another season of the mad social whirl. I brought with me two big boxes of books that I am determined to get through, or at least make a considerable dent in. Finished last night "A Spot of Bother" by Mark Haddon, who also wrote the splendid "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time." This afternoon I am heading up to the hammock to finish "The Blind Contessa. . ."

Now it's time to rustle up some chilaquiles and cut into the pineapple Fernando and Chuy brought us. Then I'll think of something else non-taxing to do.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

this is not going to be easy!

I am standing on the third floor with the LapMac perched on a serving shelf so I can get the signal for the internet. This is NOT the way to do this. But we seem unable to use the computer without these gymnastics. I don't know if it is our receiver or our cable. But nothing works inside. We'll have to take the equipment to the computer store in Tecoman to get it all tested.

Meanwhile, all is well. It's about 80º with calm seas and a high blue sky. Tomorrow morning begins the 12-day Feast of the Virgin of Guadalupe. That means fireworks at 5 AM. It also means charming little shrines to the Virgin at homes throughtout the village. Photos as I get them.

First guacamole as a before dinner treat coming up soon. More later.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Topolobampo to Cuyutlán

We are here, we are safe, we had a completely uneventful trip. Arrived at 2 o'clock yesterday afternoon. No internet as the house; something isn't working. But perhaps by the weekend we'll get it sorted out.

From Topo to Tepic is a long day; 8 hours with a couple of gas stops. When we got off the toll road we drove into a huge traffic jam occasioned by (a) a stalled bread truck on the off-ramp and (b) a police roadblock just beyond where four lanes of traffice had to merge into one. But we finally got shut of that mess and headed for our favorite hotel. We drove up only to find it boarded up, looking every bit like it had gone out of business. But the barricade was covered with posters that I couldn't read because we went by so fast. Around the block and back, this time we pulled off the street and learned that it is undergoing renovation but is open and if you just turn in (way back) there you can fine the office, etc. I walked over to the night watchman's office to check, found an employee who got into the car with Mr. C and together they did a few fancy traffic maneuvers to get the car back where it needed to be. We checked in, found out that the main renovations were to the two dining rooms. As a result, they were closed except for a little outdoor cafe set up on the patio outside our room. By 6 o'clock when we were hungry the cafe had already shut down and packed it in for the night. But that was fine; another yummy turkey sandwich and a bottle of wine and it was time to go to bed. There was no internet available; it had become a casualty of the remo.

Left Sunday morning for a fast trip to Guadalajara. Stopped at the CostCo/Mega shopping center for some last minute items we can't get around here, and then headed for home on the last leg of a very long trip. We pulled into our driveway at 2 PM, and it sure looked good. Chuy and Fernando had set up the house for us; cushions on the sofa, chairs and tables where they belong, beds made, towels out. It's as though we had never left. As an additional treat, Chuy had made a big pot of her to-die-for chiles picadillo for our dinner. That an a cold Indio is all a body needs. The garden looks beautiful; everything survived the summer rains and heat.

I had a good night's sleep, vaguely aware of the low murmur of the sea, a few dog barks and cat screams, and the rumble and whistle of the train speeding by on the edge of the village.

I'm home!

Friday, November 26, 2010

San Carlos to Topolobampo

Yes, this is really coming to you live from Topolobampo. The last time we were here the hotel had no hot water. Now the place is all wired up. Amazing.

Another easy trip today. We left San Carlos at 8:30 and arrived here at 2 PM. Only one checkpoint. The policeman, a roly-poly chap with curly back hair stuck his head in my window and said, "You Americas?" We said yes, he smiled broadly and said, "OK, good-bye." And that was it.

We'll stay in for dinner tonight ~ sandwiches made with turkey we brought from Alex's feast, either some wine or beer, and a big avocado. Tomorrow morning we'll be out of here early as we have a long slog, almost 500 miles to Tepic. More from there tomorrow.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Tucson to San Carlos

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone. We have made it safely to San Carlos so right there, we have much to be thankful for.

We pulled away from the hotel at 6:45 this morning, bought a NYTimes, and headed for the border. It was 30º and the sunrise was spectacular. My camera, of course, was buried somewhere in the mid-section of the car so you’ll just have to believe me.

At the first check point the Border Patrol has laid out a cement barricade maze that you have to drive through. We made it without scraping up the car. We drove past the various lights and alarms. Got the red light and set off a wailing siren. We were prepared to unload the car (gasp!) for inspection but nobody even looked up. So we drove away very slowly, expecting a bullet in the tires or something. Nada. We drove on to the second check point where we have to get stamped in to the country. Very busy. Us Americans (and some Canadians) are NOT scared away from this country we love so much. Got back in the car to go to the second set of lights and alarms. Green! Go! Pase. And we did.

A smooth, uneventful, quick drive through Hermasillo and on to San Carlos to the lovely little hotel where we always stay. By now the temperature was 74º and downright balmy. I’m sure you get tired of seeing this same old place, so just scroll on by and don’t look.

The hotel is having a special Thanksgiving dinner in the dining room but we’ll probably pass. We never seen to eat a lot when we travel, so it will be their delicious Tortilla Soup and a good Mexican beer.

Tomorrow it is on to Topolobambo. No internet there ~ it’s a pretty primitive town ~ so next word will be from Tepic.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

from Tucson

Completely uneventful drive from La Jolla to Tucson today. Pulled away from Phemie's house at 6:15; arrived at the hotel at 2:30, with a one-hour time change. I-8 is a great highway; not much traffic, speed limit of 75 MPH. A stop for last minute supplies at Trader Joe's, a read, a nap, then it was time to head up to have dinner with Susan Wyckoff (astronomer extrordinaire) and her husband Peter Wheninger (also an astronomer) at their wonderful house out in the boonies of Tucson. Splendid meal, fine conversation. After dinner, Susan's sister, Katy, kindly drove back to our hotel with us so we wouldn't get lost in the wilds of the suburbs. Now it's off to bed to rest up for tomorrow's assault on the border. Providing we don't get hung up for one reason or another, we should be in San Carlos by noon. More from there.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

leaving La Jolla

We have been here for two days, visiting friends, enjoying this beautiful place in what remains of good weather. Long walk along the beach front this morning with hostess Phemie and her delightful dogs. Brisk and energizing in the morning sunshine. Delish lunch of mussels at a really terrific restaurant, Whisk and Ladle in downtown La Jolla. Lovely. Expecting rain tonight. Tomorrow morning we'll take off for Tucson. Planning dinner with school chum. More from there.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

the food, the tables, the guests

Last night we were (almost) all together for an early Thanksgiving feast. Alex had shoved the couch and chairs into the dining area and set up two lovely long tables to accommodate 13 of us for the usual fare.

Everyone pitched in with the cooking: Pete did the turkey and stuffing, Alex handled the brussel sprouts ~ Miss Brussel Sprout, USA ~

and gravy, Andrew did the mashed potatoes, Mr. C made two pumpkin pies, Cait and Mike (the "almost" in the almost all ~ they had to return to Bozeman on Saturday morning so missed out but we were together for dinner Friday night) made an apple-cranberry-walnut pie, I baked breakfast breads before I left home. Peter's mother, father and brother joined us. Kaley, Rob and Ruby are out from Connecticut and were there too, recovering from a 4-day assault on Disneyland.

Both grandchildren were in attendance. Andrew is on the left; my brother-in-law, Tom on the right.

And the beauteous Emily, home from boarding school for the Thanksgiving week, with her mother.

I first met Ruby five years ago, at a similar celebration when she was 8 months old.

She is now a kindergartner, frighteningly articulate, very funny, and still curious about the necklaces I wear ~ my travel talismans.

It is so wonderful to have still have a small person in the family.

On Friday, Cait and Mike flew over from Bozeman to see everyone. Their visit was very short ~ just over night ~ but sweet. They flew back yesterday morning, fearing they might get snow-bound in Salt Lake if they waited another day. Good thing they went; bad storms on the way home, snow-buried cars at the airport. It was something like -2º when they finally landed on the last flight, but clear and sunny this morning with a temperature of -10º. She gave a quick report on the results of the Delta Non-Rev Challenge and her team's accomplishments.

"I was able to get a tiny bit of info from my co-worker when we landed about the Non-Rev Challenge results, but more facts coming your way. Out of 44 teams, we finished in 21st place. There were MANY teams that completed the entire list, and the top 5 teams had point scores of something like 2800 (compared to our paltry 790). We won for BEST BLOG (yeah!!!!) and we won for BEST TEAM PHOTO (our photo at the wind turbines with all of Candy's props, cowboy hats and the American Flag). We won special recognition for our ABOVE AND BEYOND tasks, especially the photo of me with Michael Keaton and Peggy with her llama. But I'll get more info soon, as all this was captured in a 5 minute quick conversation with Peggy."

I especially like the part about "Best Blog!"

Today is going to be a clean-up-the-hotel-room-and-get-packed day. We'll mosey over to Alex and Pete's for lunch ~ looking forward to turkey sandwiches ~ and a visit. Back to the hotel for reading and resting, then with them again for an early dinner. We'll be out of here sometime late tomorrow morning to drive down to La Jolla for two days. It has been such a lovely time together. I am deeply thankful that everyone is well and thriving and that we could spend this time together on a happy occasion.

Speaking of reading, Kaley (who is a buyer and manager of the children's and young adults departments at an indy bookstore in Guilford, CT) gave me this book, "The Blind Contessa's New Machine." I am looking forward to it. I'll let you know what I think.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

first stop, Long Beach

Mr. C woke me at 4 AM this morning, not a smart move on his part but necessary. At 5 AM he announced that the handle had broken on the master bathroom toilet. Also not a smart move. Yesterday we thought the washing machine's spin cycle had conked out. Now the toilet. As it happens, the washer was fine, but the toilet was not. The hardware store is not open at 5 AM. What to do? Could we fix it with a paper clip and some masking tape. Hardly. So we continued to pack and sent our tenant an email saying, "Sorry. You'll have to fix this." I was not happy about doing this but really had no choice. This is probably the first trip we've taken that Mr. C hasn't vacuumed as we are locking up. I did it yesterday with the wonderful new Oreck he bought while I was schlepping around Paris. I know he's always wanted one and was waiting for our old machine to finally take its last sucking gasp.

We pulled away from the house at 6:45 AM, loaded to the gills. We made good time all the way to Long Beach, arriving here at 2 PM. Four stops along the way to stretch and snack. I took a nice q1 1/2 hr. nap after we arrived and settled into the hotel. Then over to Alex's for an early supper. Now back for a good night's sleep.

The drive down the Central Valley is nothing if not boring. I-5 needs road work all the way from Sacramento to Buttonwillow. Alas, probably no state funds to take care of it. Maybe Jerry can find some cash. The air quality is horrible; dusty and smoggy and reeking of cow poop. Then up the Grapevine to clearer skies, past Gorman to Lebec where there is a very nice Rest Area where we always stop for lunch. Up past Pyramid Lake, then down into the LA basin past Magic Mountain "amusement park" (is anyone amused by this place?) past the turn off for Sepulveda (my father amused himself by pronouncing it "Se-pul-VEE-da"), Crenshaw and Pico Rivera,the Getty Center, the round apartment building that was once a Holiday Inn hotel. Then Mulholland Drive, the AmEx, FedEx and LAX, Bel Air, bel paese and bel canto. Beverly Hills, Woodland Hills, Huntington Beach, Long Beach, Newport Beach and all the other landmarks of my childhood. Along the way I saw three Smart Cars; one was bright blue, two were black, a Smart new look for the mafioso. Toyota is still the vehicle of choice, according to my unscientific survey of the passing traffic. Silver, once again, the color of choice for the majority of all drivers.

It's time to turn off the light and get some sleep. Tomorrow we will see Cait and Mike, providing a new storm in Salt Lake doesn't ground them, and Kaley, Rob and Ruby. We are all having dinner together tomorrow night at George's, a wonderful Greek restaurant on Long Beach's famed 2nd Street. Meanwhile, Mr. C has to make a couple of his famous Pumpkin Pies and I have to huddle with grandson Andrew to find out what he has in store for the world.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


Seven months surely go by in a heck of a hurry. It seems like only 3 or 4 weeks ago we arrived home, but I can see by all the stickies and notes to myself that indeed it's time to leave again. "Do this," "buy that," "pack these but leave these here." I can also tell by the fact that I had to put flannel sheets and the electric blanket on the bed. Not to mention all the piles of fallen leaves along our city's streets. And it's pretty much all done. The car is so full I don't now how the pilot (Mr. C) will be able to see out the rear window. As I am the navigator, that's my job.

I've pruned the t-shirts down, added a pair of well-worn sandals, baked two loaves of breakfast bread for the Long Beach crowd. Mailed back the last of the Netflix® movies, returned all library books, bagged up old bank statements to go off to the shredder. Now I have to dash up to the laundry to pick up the gigantic bed pad for our bed: instructions said "Front loading commercial washer only." OK by me. I didn't want to wrestle that thing around anyway. No more buying of any food stuffs; we eat up what's here. That could get interesting if we wait much longer. Mr. C. has left some room in his duffel bag for what I grab at the last minute; mine is already packed and stuffed into the car.

So off we go tomorrow morning for another hair-raising 2500 mile drive, part of it through questionable territory. I do wake in the night and think about it. Then I remind myself that I'm going there by choice and not to fret. We'll be careful. Next post will be from Long Beach where it's sunny and clear but with rain expected just in time for our celebration on Saturday. In Cuyutlán it's in the high 80's with thunderstorms due next week.

Hasta luego.

Monday, November 15, 2010

how many T-shirts?

I'm trying to whittle down the pile of clothes I'm taking down to the beach. I leave quite a few things there to summer-over in the heat and humidity. So far everything has done OK. Believe it or not, it's an infestation of cucaraches that I have to worry about. They get into the clothes and eat and poop themselves to a fare-thee-well. When I check out my wardrobe there are tiny brown stains on everything. Not a good sign. So keeping all these possibilities in mind, how many T-shirts do I need to make up for those possibly lost? I've decided I've put aside too many. Let's pare down to, say, five. That should be plenty.

Then there are the sandals and shorts. Three pair of each. Check. That means I have to off-load the extra two pair of shorts and one pair of sandals.

Part of the problem, too, is that we will do quite a bit of socializing before we cross the border. Can I get away with shorts and T-shirts at these events? Do I need something more presentable? Who cares? It will be all Mex from the time I leave home until the time I get there! With a sweater.

This all means I have to revisit my duffel bag tomorrow morning to weed out stuff I know I won't need at the beach. The things I can't do without, however, are my books. With the 5 boxes of books currently stowed in the car I will have no lack of reading materials, despite the fact that 4 of those boxes belong to others. Everything will eventually end up in the local librario anyway for everyone to enjoy.

As for family on hand to celebrate the pre-Thanksgiving Thanksgiving, it will be both daughters, their significant others, niece Kaley and her family, grandchildren, and brother-in-law. We have not been together since my sister's memorial. It will be good to celebrate the bounties of the season as a family.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

3 books, 2 movies, 1 mess

Over the past couple of weeks I have read three really good books in a row. No picking up, reading through the first chapter and discarding. Start to finish. They were The Story of Edgar Sawtelle, The Help, and just finished Mr. Pip. Three very different novels, the last one set in Papua New Guinea. Lots of stars for each one. I thought the ending of The Help too contrived and I would have written it differently. Or I should say I might have reached the same denouement but would have gotten there by a different route.

Two movies I watched: A Single Man and The Band's Visit. The first, with Michael Douglas, made me squirm with discomfort, not because it was bad but because Douglas plays such a pathetic character and does it so well. Interesting ending. The Band's Visit was great fun to watch. It's about an Egyptian police band that goes to Israel and gets lost in the desert and ends up in a tiny Israeli settlement. Charming and witty and ultimately quite satisfying.

The mess concerns the entire house. We are heading to Mexico in four days. We are living around and among bags and boxes and suitcases filled with "essentials" including 5 mop heads (can't get them in MX), 6 boxes of Jello® Instant Pudding and 2 bottles of Kraft Tartar Sauce (for others), 2 jars of Mr. C's favorite peanut butter and horseradish (!), and who knows what else. Oh yes, 2 cases of good wine. Insanity on wheels!

The paper has been stopped, Netflix® suspended, the pool guy and gardener notified. I've had my teeth cleaned, legs waxed, tomorrow is a haircut, Tuesday is a pedicure. That's it for personal maintenance. Today I have to go through my stack of unread New Yorkers to decide which to take, which to donate to the local hospital's waiting rooms. Final chore is to get the house back into some semblance of its usual order for our tenant. We've been slowly working through each room so that on Thursday morning, around 3 AM, Mr. C doesn't feel he has to vacuum the floors and clean the windows before we drive off at 6:30 AM. Getting out of here is not easy! I'm glad we'll have a few days to rest from our labors before hitting I-8 on our way to Tucson.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

they did it!

After 56 years of trying, these Boys of Summer finally won the World Series last night. Splendid pitching by Tim Linsecum and Brian Wilson for the Giants and Cliff Lee for the Rangers. Edgar Renteria the MVP, well deserved. I wish the team had been in San Francisco for the win. It's going to be quite a parade, I'll wager.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Madison Bumgarner

He's only 21, the 4th youngest pitcher in World Series history. The youngest was Ken Brett, a relief pitcher for the 1967 Boston Red Sox. Baseball: it's all about stats. Thank you, Madison, for a beautiful game. Tomorrow night, for the championship (!), Tim Lincecum.

Tim, Joe and Edgar


Here he is, the wunderkind hurler for the SF Giants. He looks like a 15-year old girl and, in fact, got wolf whistles in Phillie! This boy obviously loves to play baseball! I am using him to represent the whole team, now getting ready for game 4 tonight in Arlington, TX. Not such a good performance last night. They'll do better today, we can only hope. It's been 56 years since the Giants won a World Series. Egad! Eisenhower was president!


After lobbying for more than 10 years, we finally have a Trader Joe's in town. It opened on Friday to much fanfare, including a march-through by the Big U's marching band, a ceremonial lei-cutting, and lots of goodies for grazing shoppers. The place was absolutely packed all day long. I can now get my favorite nibbles without having to drive 20 miles one way! The process of getting this store was not easy. Initially the City Council gave permission to build on a site but ignored the fact that there was already a business there that had no intention of moving. The second site suggested was not acceptable to TJ's. It was all put on hold for a couple of years. Rumors flew. They're coming! They're not coming. But eventually, it all worked out and we now join the ranks of towns worth moving to because we have a Trader Joe's! All of this just goes to show how exciting life is in small town America.


I have just finished reading this book and was sorry it was over. An exquisitely crafted and beautifully written novel. I was a bit daunted by its size at first but was hooked immediately and loved every single one of its 500 pages. I have a confession to make, however. It took me awhile to "get it." Miss Parker, my high school English teacher, would not be pleased at how long it took me to make the Hamlet connection. The author gives all the clues necessary; the mother's name is Trudy, the uncle's name is Claude, the dead father appears to the son as a ghost. How much more do you need him to tell you? And Ophelia? Well, she's a dog, it's true, adoring and faithful and not the least bit nutty. As one might suspect, it doesn't end well. It ends the way it has to.

Next on the night stand: The Help. It was the topic of several conversations at the Santa Fe reunion. Highly recommended.

Friday, October 29, 2010

travel, anniversaries, travel

Santa Fe

Photo courtesy of Deborah Michel

When last we met, I was awaiting departure from Sacramento to join my boarding school classmates at a reunion in Santa Fe. I actually did make it albeit not until 10:15 PM. By that time everyone had done the cocktail routine in our room, gone out to dinner, had post-dinner drinks in the hotel lounge, and gone to bed. The Welcome mat was rolled up and put away. My roommate ~ classmate Sandy ~ was still awake when I finally stumbled through the hotel grounds and found our room. I rustled up some crackers and cheese, a glass of wine, finished off the carrots I had brought on the plane, got a quick rundown on who had shown up. Then I fell into bed in what bordered on a coma.

The next morning I passed up the opportunity to go on a forced march at some unholy hour, choosing instead to join the group in the very lovely dining room for a full breakfast buffet ~ fruit, yogurt, eggs, quiche, all sorts of breads, cereals, etc. Plans were afoot for the day's activities. A ride out to the Audubon refuge? The folk art museum? Shopping and lunch on/around the Plaza (the hotel is only 2 blocks from the center of town)? It all sounded swell until I began to contemplate the effort any or all of these things would take. Besides all of that, I was suspicious that I had contracted Pink Eye someplace or other. I had all the symptoms. I decided I had to take care of that little problem first. Someone was planning a trip to a pharmacy so I joined in, bought some drops, returned to the hotel and decided that, with a combination of jet lag (remember Paris?), high blood sugar, low blood pressure, and Pink Eye, I needed to rest. So I returned to our room and slept away 3 hours of the first day.

I woke up about 1 o'clock, decided I didn't want any lunch but foraged some more cheese, and headed up to the plaza. I walked around for a couple of hours, looking at the shops, the people, the dogs, the uniform architecture. I saw more silver and turquoise than I could have imagined existed in one place. I didn't see any of the group but did see some great "public" art, including this row of wooden angels lining the street.

Back at the hotel I found this one in the garden outside our room.

Saturday evening we all strolled up to the plaza for dinner at La Fonda, one of Santa Fe's oldest and most famous hotels. First stop was the rooftop terrace which was, on a nice mild evening, jam packed, so we sat inside for cocktails. Then down to the dining room for a sort of Tex-Mex style dinner. After dinner, some more strolling and then back to the hotel for what this group does best; talk. By this time I was so exhausted I could only excuse myself and go to bed. We had big plans for Sunday.

Again I excused myself from a morning constitutional, got myself together somehow and made it over to the dining room for coffee. We were scheduled to drive up to The Bishop's Lodge for brunch. You know, "Bishop's School - Bishop's Lodge"; seemed like a good idea. And it was. This uber luxe place is up in the hills outside of town. It's a gorgeous drive through high desert. The cottonwoods and aspens had turned bright yellow. The Sunday Brunch is famous, and rightly so. Two large rooms serving the most gorgeous food anywhere. One room for breakfast sorts of things ~ eggs, omelets, ham, sausage, etc. ~ and the other serving luncheon things ~ cold poached salmon, oysters, shrimp, salads, ham, turkey, breads. And then a whole table of decadent desserts. How to choose? I managed. And kept the blood sugar under tight control, too!

Back to the hotel for more talking and laughing and reminiscing about the bad old days in boarding school which, as it turns out, weren't all that bad most of the time.

At 5 o'clock we were back in the cars headed out to the home of the sister of one of our classmates. The sister, Barbara, lives in Boston but has this splendid vacation home in Santa Fe. It wasn't easy to find but with a combination of MapQuest and a GPS we arrived. What a beautiful place, quite isolated, but with a view to the west that is breathtaking.

The house is large and spread out with a big front terrace where we had cocktails and dinner. We started a fire in the big fireplace and pulled our chairs into a semi-circle and, yep, talked. It was really the highlight of the weekend. Then Monday morning rolled around, time to pack up and get on another plane to come home. I was back in residence by 6 o'clock, determined not to go anywhere again for at least a month.

We hear a lot about how people don't change, that once the DNA is decided, that's it forever. I have been a doubter of that certainty. But this weekend showed me that, by the time you're about 14 (the age most of us were when we met) it's pretty much a done deal. These women are, almost exactly who they were then. They may have newly found interests or skills, have given up some of their foolish ways, studied new things, gone new places, but basically they are still the girls I grew up with. There's something so comforting about that. It makes reunions so easy, dependable, reliable,
without surprises.


Back to Paris for just a moment. Dinner at Christine's on my last night was fabulous. I was there when the doors opened, without a reservation, and got the pursed lips and furrowed brow of the maître d' that one expects when showing up dressed in one's cleanest jeans and a cashmere sweater at a place where coat and tie and swishy dresses are the norm. He informed me that nothing was available until 8:30 (it was 6:30). I said, "Maintenant?" He brightened and said that Oui I could have this table right by the window and bienvenu et bon appetit! I settled in for a very fine meal of the entrée et plat. I selected a heavenly mushroom ragout (I wrote the chef after I got home and asked for the recipe; so far, de rein). This dish was coarsely chopped mushrooms of various types, lightly sautéed in butter with a hint of nutmeg and something else that I couldn't identify but what might have been Chinese Five Spice. Then they were spooned into a small covered iron pot and baked. When the garçon uncovered the pot the fragrance was enough to make me swoon with pleasure. And the taste? Ambrosial. After that came a poached and grilled fish called "bar." It's a very mild white fish, probably fresh water. The fish was fileted and the skin on one side removed. It was then poached. To finish, the fish was put under a broiler, skin side up to turn it crispy. Then it was all bathed in a delicate champagne sauce. What a circus for the mouth; sweet, tender fish, slightly salty crispy skin, lovely fragrant sauce. And to accompany it all, a luscious glass of really good Sancere, not the cheap screw-top stuff I'd been drinking. I paid the exorbitant bill with pleasure. What a way to bid farewell to Paris.

One last thing I did while here. My sister and I had two marvelous trips to Paris over the years. I did some retracing of our steps throughout my stay. I took this picture of her on the Champs de Mars on our first trip in 1985. We had just bought some goodies at a street market and were having a picnic. As I recall, it was March and very cold.

This time when I went back I found this. Not quite in the same spot, but you get the idea.


I started this blog four years ago on October 25, right after Mr. C (then known as "The Patient") began his radiation and chemo for tonsil cancer. At that time it was called The Tonsil Wars. The name changed to reflect his recovery. So that's one anniversary. The second celebration is along the same lines, however. He has just passed his 4th year exam by the cancer crew. Looking clear and clean all around.


In less than three weeks we head off to Mexico for the winter. Mr. C has already started loading the car with the various "musts" that we seem to need there. One of these days we'll decide that we have enough stuff and will just throw a couple of pairs of shorts in a paper bag and call it enough. But until then we continue to cram the car with goods. This year it's the 6 wicker dining chairs from IKEA that are taking up all the room. To be fair, I did search all over our area, including Guadalajara, for such chairs and could find nothing. Then there are the several items we are taking for friends. There may be enough room for our own stuff but I'm not holding out much hope. We will drive to Long Beach to spend some time with Alex, Pete and the kids, then down to La Jolla for two nights to see and say good-bye to friends. Next stop will be Tucson and we'll cross the border in Nogales on Thanksgiving. All things being equal, we'll be at the beach on Sunday, November 28. I have never been too apprehensive about our drive, but things are a lot worse than they have been. We have to drive through the states of Sonora and Sinaloa, both notoriously in the news these days. Even the road from the city of Tucson to the border has been a shooting gallery of late. Think good thoughts.