Sunday, February 27, 2011

now out in paperback

My fried MAS at NoCommaNo posted a note some weeks ago about having her 2010 blog pages published in book form. What a great idea, I decided. So I logged on to, filled out all the information, chose the styles, etc., and 2 weeks later the printed and bound version of 2010 arrived in the mail box. Alex brought it down to me. I have had the pleasure of leafing through last year, post by post, and being reminded of its many and several delights. For $75 I am a self-published author, and just when Borders has gone out of business . . .

Saturday, February 26, 2011

more later

Gosh, I haven't had a minute to devote to the blog, what with Alex here, travel, daily happenings, etc. Check back in a day or so to see what's happening. Just to let you know everyone is just fine and we are having a marvelous time.

Friday, February 18, 2011

ready and waiting

Daughter Alex arrives tomorrow afternoon for a stay of 10 days. Guest quarters have been scrubbed, fluffed, decorated and otherwise made ready for her. A few plans on tap: 2-night trip to Tlaquepaque and Guadalajara for sightseeing and shopping, shrimp at Dago's, dinner party to celebrate her birthday ~ its a big one that ends in "0" ~ some dominoes, and lots of reading and hammock time. Just what a high energy administrative big-shot needs!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Happy Birthday, Boys!

Today is the first birthday celebration for Zeke (r) and Huck (l). When they brought them home they looked like this.

Here's their latest portrait.

The birthday dispatch from Bozeman:

"Our pups turn one year old tomorrow (2/16). My, how far we've come! Their party plans include: a walk, barking at leaves, getting brushed, barking at the UPS guy, chasing each other, napping, rolling in snow, and lots of belly rubs. Everyone should be so lucky!"

Our plans for the day include going to Armeria to get our photos taken for our FM3 renewal, then on to Tecoman to do some marketing and banking. Dominoes this afternoon. Not sure about the barking and belly rubs, but napping has a certain appeal. ¡Así es la vida!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

view from the top

This is the view from Sandy and Brad's third floor terrazzo, across the rooftops of neighbors out to the beautiful blue Pacific just after sunset. Just below this deck is their bedroom with a similar eye-popping view.

The evening was so mild and warm, a perfect setting for a salmon grill dinner served al fresco down on the first floor terrazzo. Along with their house guest Kella, they put on a marvelous spread of king salomon (brought down from Canada in Sandy's luggage), salads of various types, all preceded by Brad's slushy, potent margaritas. For dessert, a strawberry cheesecake made by Kella. Their house, with its wide arcade is a great party place, and they are fine hosts, all three of them.

The original builder installed a traditional colonial-style fountain in the front courtyard. Since I am still searching for the perfect fountain for our back garden I like to check out how others do it and what style they chose. It will take quite a bit of engineering for us to accomplish this but it can be done, I know. After all, this is Mexico!

Tonight our friend Liz, currently in residence at the casa de Fernando across the street, will join us for dinner. Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic. Meanwhile, it's dominoes this afternoon. I won by only 6 points yesterday afternoon. I had to redeem myself after a 200 point loss on Sunday.

Monday, February 14, 2011

robalo and whales

I misspoke about the Sunday lunch menu; it's robalo, not robado fish. (This is not Fernando!) What he prepared at his puesto was robalo en su jugo and it was absolutely delicious. Robalo ~ AKA Common Snook, Swordspine Snook, Black Snook, and Fat Snook ~ is a firm white salt water fish. He had a whole fish that he cut into big chunks and simmered in a rich, spicy broth made with tomatoes, onions, garlic, vay ocho (V-8), and a variety of chilies and spices. You add a big squeeze of lime and eat the soup with tortillas or crispy tostadas. For dessert Chuy had made a very creamy rice pudding. Two hundred pesos for three of us, including 2 beers and a margarita. A nice Sunday lunch among friends.

While we were enjoying the after-meal view out across the beach what should appear but several whales frolicking in the water off the surf line. If you look very carefully in the middle of the above picture, you can see the remnants of a spouting. I just don't have a camera that will photograph these things well. I am seriously thinking about buying a really good SRL digital such as the ones grandchildren Andrew and Emily each have. But do I really want to spend $500 so I can take a better picture of a whale for your enjoyment? I have to think about that.

Today is what the Mexicans call La Dia de Amistad, Friendship Day. We are going to a salmon roast in celebration of the fine circle of friends we have here. Pictures and details tomorrow. Meanwhile, Happy Valentine's Day!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

early Sunday

So it's about yesterday's opera. Well, it wasn't Puccini, it wasn't Rossini, it wasn't Wagner, it wasn't even Glass. And the connection to the internet wasn't any good, either. I heard the first act, part of the first intermission, and the early part of Act II. Then nothing. I couldn't get it up and running again. So I quit trying, called Marie for a quick game of Mexican Train Dominoes (she won), and spent the rest of the afternoon reading.

Yesterday morning Fernando showed up to connect the new pump. WOW! It sent water all over the place. Left on for more than 20 minutes it will suck the well dry. He warned Mr. C not to run it for more than 20 minutes, then let the well refill for an hour, than another 20 minutes. This is not very convenient, but better than nothing.

Javier was in the lot with the chainsaw in the morning. When he cranked up the truck radio to "extremely loud" I shouted at him and he turned it down. He sped over and the noise disappeared. He has to keep the landowners happy. He worked until about 2 o'clock then left. I'm going to tell him that I am expecting a guest next week ~ daughter Alex ~ and would he please not work until 9 AM and quit at 4 PM. I imagine he'll agree. If not, I'll get out the secret weapon: Fernando.

While down in the garden checking out the new pump and the watering pressure, I saw the spectacular blooms on our new hibiscus. This is the hybrid that I bought in Colima a month ago. Isn't it amazing? The blossom is about 8" across, pure white with a deep pinky-red throat and a yellow stamen. And the bush is loaded with buds. Whatever is in the fertilizer we bought is mighty powerful.

I SKYPE'D Alex this morning. She has survived her first week as an academic administrator and is ready for the second. She has been gathering the goodies she's bringing down to us ~ books, tea lights and dinner napkins (IKEA), rice crackers (Trader Joe's), some groceries that we can't get here such as corn meal and powdered bittersweet chocolate, meds for me, some old issues of The New Yorker, and some Christmas cards. Nice to have your own private pony express.

Today I am going down to Fernando's puesto ~ El Barcel ~ for lunch with Liz. He has caught a big fish he calls a robado that he is going to grill. I looked up this particular species and can find nothing. I'll have to let you know what he sets before me. I think Mr. C will come too; he doesn't miss an opportunity to enjoy Fernando and Chuy's excellent cooking. Marie may stop in, too. Full house.

I'm finished with a piece of fluff reading, "Death in a Strange Country" by Donna Leon. Set in Venice. Not a very satisfying ending. Next on the list: "Sweetness in the Belly" by Camilla Gibb, passed to me by someone here. After that, something set in South Africa, a bio/autobio piece.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

some sad news

This is the sweet face of my niece's faithful dog, Hannah. Such deep and knowing eyes. I received this message from Kaley this morning.

"In sad news, we put our sweet dog Hannah down this week. She was 15 1/2 years old! When I got her, I was 22 and still living on Sea St with T(om) & V(ic). She's seen me through moving out, getting married, buying a house, having a baby... all major milestones. She was the truest and most wonderful friend. We are all getting used to the idea that she is no longer with us, but it sure is tough. The house is too quiet. Here she is moments before we said goodbye..."

On an even darker note, although one not having death in it (yet), to be a good neighbor I agreed to allow our vacant lot next door to be used to store some palm logs. (I should say right up front that Fernando was aghast that I had allowed this.) Javier, an entrepreneurial young man, got his hands on 100 palm logs from someone in Tecoman who is clear cutting a grove. He is cutting them into big beams and construction lumber to both sell and use on his family's home. He has been cutting up the logs on the street in front of his house around the corner. Over the past week he has hauled these huge trunks into our lot; there are probably 40 of them now. So what's the problem? Storage is one thing, but this morning at 8 o'clock he started cutting them up with a chain saw. I did not agree to have a saw mill next door. You can see where the potential for death comes in. Now I have to look up all the words for "Get that &$^#* saw mill (aserradero) off our lot!" Or I'll ask Fernando to do it for me.

Opera today: "Nixon in China." I've never heard it but the word is that it's very good. It's also the first opera to have a 747 airplane on stage.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

it's Mexico, after all

We in el norte have a completely different concept of time than do the Mexicans. A person might say to you , "I'll be there in the morning." The first thing you would ask is, "What time?" and they would say, "How about 10 AM?" Not so in Mexico. If someone tells you they'll be there en la mañana it means sometime between 8 and 2 in the afternoon. Or if they say en la tarde it means between 4 PM and 8 or 9 in the evening. Most will try to get there, but if they can't manage, it will be mañana and no big deal. Or if not, the day after that. This is something I have learned to live with and not fret about. Sometimes when something absolutely HAS to get done, such as our well pump, things go a little faster. Fernando and Mr. C went over to Tecoman to buy a new one this afternoon ~ Fernando did say he would be here at 4 o'clock and he in fact was here about 4:15. They bought a new pump and he'll be here tomorrow to install it, and just in the nick of time. Our lawn is watered by well water and it's looking mighty peakéd and is definitely in need of a drink. He said en la mañana so we'll look for him sometime before 2 PM. However, I must say that he's pretty hip to gringos' obsession with time so it will undoubtedly be temprano, about 9 AM.

But back to the issue of time. I have come to appreciate the Mexican concept of time. Not really a "What's the rush?" attitude. More of a "It will all get done. Just relax!" sort of thinking. Besides, there's no use in getting all wound up about it. The people you are dealing with, whether it's the furniture repair folks or the talera delivery man know that you will be where you are tomorrow and they can call you or come back and take care of things.

I like that. I like the idea that life will be pretty much the same tomorrow as it is today. This 24-hour delay thing is not designed to make us driven, clock-watching gringos nuts. But it does make us slow down and appreciate the pace of life here where we are. And if we don't see it that way, we don't belong here. The Mexican folks we know and live with here are not going to change their way of life to suit our frenetic lives. We have to slow down and appreciate theirs.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

first thing Wednesday morning

Isn't this a lovely way to start the day, out on the balcony in the warm sunshine, good cup of coffee, ocean murmurs in the background, and a couple of chapters of an interesting book? I stepped inside for a refill just as three greedy kiskadees flew up to breakfast at the aloe flowers. By the time I retrieved the camera they had flown off. You'll just have to believe me that they're here.

Later on I'll drive over to Armeria to Dago's father-in-law's fish market for something tasty for dinner. I may stop and get more chips, too, since I think I'll make some salsa to serve with the fish and to nosh on with the chips.

Meanwhile, we've had Elias back again for yet more electrical problems. This one concerns the failure of our well pump. At first we thought it was a short in the circuitry but Elias said no, it's the pump itself. While he was here he installed all new circuit boxes and rewired some of the load so it is more evenly distributed between the upstairs and downstairs; we have two separate fuse boxes and there was too much on the upstairs box. Fernando came over this morning and nosed around and agreed that if Elias says it's the pump, it's the pump, not the wiring. So Mr. C and Fernando will drive over to Tecoman this afternoon to pick up a new pump. Fernando will install it and we'll see what happens. If it blows out after 5 seconds, it is NOT the pump.

I haven't been to our little biblioteca Las Palmas yet this year. Today's the day. I'll walk over this afternoon to check things out. Last year I think we counted over 5,000 books. I also have a couple of boxes to add to the holdings. I usually end up bringing things home to add to my stack of "To Read" and then end up taking most of it back at the end of the season, mostly unread. Too many choices.

Monday, February 7, 2011

I Went to a Marvelous Party*

I couldn't have liked it more.* Fabulous setting ~ Nick and Roger's beautiful high-ceiling'd hacienda-style digs on the beach.

They are wonderful hosts. Their house was designed for parties; big, airy rooms that open up to the central courtyard and the pool. At one end is a smaller patio that leads to the beach. Perfect spot to sit and watch the sunset. These charming chaps simply throw open the doors, welcome everyone who shows up, and the party pretty much takes care of itself. They had set up two TVs, one in the living room, one by the pool. Those who wanted to could watch the game; the rest just socialized and noshed on delicious things such as spicy chili and cornbread with jalapeños, two or three salads, guacamole, chips, tamale pie (ahem!), plus various dips, crackers, cheeses, brats and buns . . . tailgate sort of stuff. It was mostly served outside and we milled around in the portales enjoying the food, fellowship, and gorgeous warm sunshine.

Mr. C left early, just after kick-off, but I stayed until the 3rd quarter. That was enough. Unfortunately, I did not win in the football pool. Maybe next year.

Today is Alex's first day on the new job. Good luck, Madam Director!

Caitlin is back from a week's vacation in Belize. She sent along this photo and comment.
"This sign is posted in the various women's restrooms throughout the Belize Airport. I have no idea how things have deteriorated to the point to where this sign is even NECESSARY, but it made me laugh out loud when I read it."

*With acknowledgment to Noel Coward's "I Went to a Marvelous Party."

Sunday, February 6, 2011

football and food

I am not really a football fan, although I do love the antics of half-time. But this being Super Bowl Sunday, there are festivities among the norte crowd. Roger and Nick are hosting a "tailgate" party at their wonderful house down in the colonia. Since I must rustle up something to add to the fare I decided on a tamale pie, something I love and that Mr. C can eat without too much trouble.

As a result there was much activity in the kitchen late this morning ~ chopping, grating, dicing, etc. One thing you cannot buy here is canned tomatoes of any kind; whole, diced, stewed ~ nada. So I decided to roast my own and see what happened. The only kind of tomatoes we are able to buy are Romas, those hard, dry, tasteless things that are OK for sauce but not for much else. I roasted them just like I do peppers, over the open flame of a burner. Works like a charm! Off slip the skins leaving behind a slight roasted scent although that effort does not affect the bland taste at all. But with the addition of a little V-8, chili powder ~ both mild and HOT ~ I think it will be OK. If it isn't, there will be 40 guests so folks can certainly find other things to enjoy!

Speaking of food, this is a shot of the blooms on our big aloe plant on the balcony. The birds love whatever it is that serves as nectar for this particular plant. We've had many beautiful sippers; some kiskadees ~ and hummingbirds. I tried to get a photo with a diner but they're just too quick. The lovely kiskadees with their bandit mask feathering and bright yellow breasts are always around at this time of the year.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

another year without you

My beloved sister would have celebrated her 64th year today. Happy Birthday, Vicky. I think of you every day. I miss you every day. Who else could possibly know?

February 3, 1947 - August 31, 2009

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

keeping it in perspective

When I read and hear about what's going on in Egypt, having four non-working toilets seems like a pathetic annoyance. I read a report over at No More Commas Period from a friend of the blogger who is trying to build a B & B at Aswan. There are also a couple of fine articles about the "history" of this revolution, plus David Brooks' Monday columnin the NYT. It is important to know what's happening; I fear things are probably going to get a lot worse.

As for the blocked up toilets, Elias was here all day, beginning at 9:30 AM and finally finished up the replumbing of the upstairs at 6:30 PM tonight. We have moved back into the house upon his assurance that everything is working just fine. The problem? A combination of invasive palm tree roots that had coiled themselves all through the PVC pipes AND improper connections that didn't go all the way into the street sewer. I was afraid he would have to rip out our lovely downstairs patio to get to the offending parts, but instead he shoved a long piece of flexible rebar with a hook on the end through the pipe, twirled it around until he snared the roots, pulled them out, did that again and again until he had cleared out the pipes. Then he reconnected everything, put in a new length of pipe, buried it all under sand, re-cemented it all, and we're good to go. Or so he says. For this he charged the fine sum of $800 pesos or $65 US. We gave him $1,000 in case we need him back again anytime soon!

Would that the situation in Egypt could be so easily solved. Things are turning violent. And it could spill into other Middle East countries. These are not easy times for anyone who is paying attention.