Thursday, March 31, 2011

adios Marzo, bienvenidos Abril

Where in the world have the last four months gone? Well, wherever they are, they're gone and it's time to move on. But before we go, today was Opening Day for Major League Baseball. It was 41º in Cincinnati, there was 2 feet of snow on the ground in Minneapolis, and the SF Giants and the LA Dodgers are to play tonight and here it is too early to know anything. The beloved Vince Scully begins his 62nd year as the voice of the Dodgers making sense of it all for the listeners, no matter which is your team.

But tomorrow begins the glorious month of April.
  • April 1st is, of course, April Fool's Day. It is also the birthday of gal pal Liz. Happy Birthday, Liz!
  • April 2nd is departure date from Cuyutlán for Neighbor and Mrs. Nelson, back to California. They actually fly out of Guadalajara on the afternoon of the 3rd, but they will be deserting the beach on Saturday. It's also the broadcast of the Met's Das Rheingold. I may have to give it a pass. Wagner, you know.
  • April 3rd begins Daylight Savings Time here in Mexico. Spring ahead. That means it will be dark until around 8 AM and sunset will be after 8 PM.
  • On Monday, April 4th we go into Manzanillo to pick up our FM3 documents. Mrs. Neighbor Nelson went last week and even though they told her the FM3 would be ready, she had to wait more than 2 hours. We'll see.
  • Tuesday morning April 5th we leave for our annual trek to San Miguel de Allende. We have rented a different place this year but in the same area. In fact, about a block or two away. Since DST has started we will have to leave a bit later than usual; we have to wait until it is really daylight before hitting the road. But it will still be lovely daylight when we get there. It's 400 miles, about an 8 hour drive.
  • After that, I don't know what we'll be doing during the next few days of vacation. Going to restaurants, taking in a concert or art show if possible, and just hanging out in that delightful place. There will be a trip to Dolores Hidalgo, of course, for more pots and other talavera goodies.
Meanwhile, tomorrow evening at Dago's, of course, to have really good shrimp and to say "good bye" to the Nelsons. They are the first of the winter crowd to leave. Next will be Sandy (Brad is staying on to finish up an irrigation system he is installing), then Sibyl and Paul. One by one (or two by two) we are closing out the 2010-2011 season. We aren't leaving until May 1st. But take heart! The 2011-12 season is only seven months away!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

lovely lunch, delightful dinner

Here's what I learned at lunch: Dago does the best shrimp on the malecón. We went to a different puesto this afternoon and now I know better. I won't make that mistake again. I have tried three other places and none holds a candle to his way with shrimp. Nonetheless, lunch was lovely. Good conversation in a gorgeous setting. The breeze was warm, the view spectacular. My luncheon companion is leaving here in 10 days for Ottawa and perhaps then on to Europe to visit family. But she and her husband will be back for next season, and we will, I hope, do this again.

After lunch I went over to Jack's to help him install his new modem so he, too, will have his own reliable internet connection. But nothing is ever easy, is it? There was a problem with one of the cables and I couldn't get it hooked up. I'm taking one of our cables over to see if it's a flaw in what Telmex gave him. He's eager to get his own service up and running so he doesn't have to schlep over to the cybercafe every day to check things out. Perhaps I'll send Mr. C over to deal with it!

Tonight's entertaining dinner was also very nice. The quiche was creamy and delicious, the Sinaloa tomatoes I bought to slice and dress weren't quite ripe; still a bit hard. But at least they were a change from those dry Roma things that are the standard here. It's true that they make the best sauce but I get tired of them. What I want is a really juicy, acidic Beefsteak or even some nice Early Girls. But not here. Mr. C made some refreshing vanilla ice cream, always a treat, and added some sweet sliced strawberries. The conversation ranged from real estate problems here in Cuyutlán to libertarian issues such as the legalization of marijuana in California (everyone thought it would pass. Surprise!), to the class-action suit by women workers at WalMart. And a whole lot more. Sammy, the dog, didn't say much but his presence was most welcome.

Tomorrow afternoon is a domino game at a home down in the colonia. I understand that the hostess has quite a collection of "mystery" novels. I'm looking forward to giving them the once over for future readings.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

automotive business

We drove to Colima early this morning to get the car serviced at OZ Colima. Well, that's what it's called. It's the Toyota franchise and we take the car every year for an oil change and filter replacement. We went into the Sala de espera (which I always thing of as the Room of Hope) and sat in big comfy chairs and read for a couple of hours. I am currently laughing my way through Ruth Reichl's Tender at the Bone.  Her biography reveals how she developed her love of food from an early age. The section on her experience at a boarding school in Montreal (her mother thought she should learn French) was very reminiscent of my own schooling. She was the restaurant critic for the NY Times and then the editor of Gourmet. It's a great read, even in a car dealership's waiting room.

We followed this with a quick dash into WalMart for a few things, then went to lunch at our favorite, Kronos. We drove by a massive traffic tie-up on the way in due to some big construction project so decided to get back to the carretera via the back way. Worked like a charm. Home by 2:30, just in time to shellac Marie at dominoes.

Tomorrow is lunch with a friend down at one of the puestos I have never been to. Complete report afterwords. Then home to whip up a quiche for dinner with another friend whose wife is away for a few days. He insists he is a great cook and can take care of himself, and I believe him totally. But he has the most delightful dog and he has promised to bring him along.

Monday, March 28, 2011

wardrobe enhancements

One of the fun things to do at tinaguis is to shop the used clothing stalls. (I still think the BEST place to shop for used clothing is the Thrift Store in Columbus, Ohio! Man 'o man do they ever have great stuff!) Twenty years ago this market was 99% food vendors. Today it's about 40% vegetables, fruits and other foodstuffs. The rest is new and used (seminuevo) clothing. I don't have that much patience as a rule, but today I ran into Chuy who pointed me to a new stall that had things piled on tables, much of it new, under a sign 10 pesos cada una. That was too good to pass up. I have found some great buys from time to time and since my luck at dominoes has been so terrible, I thought perhaps my shopping mojo might be working. I plunged right in and came up with three items, all different sizes but all seem to fit. There is no place to try anything on so it's always a bit iffy. But if nothing fit I would just recycle it and someone else can pay 10 pesos!

First treasure was this pair of black/white checked shorts. I tend to get into a khaki or white rut here; these are a snazzy update to the tattered shorts collection.

Next, yet another pair of khaki shorts, but these are new, the cuffs aren't frayed, and there are no food stains on the front. I can now toss a couple pair of really disreputable pants.

My third purchase was a pair of khaki trousers, perfect for the cool valley when we get home but much too warm for here. Good for traveling, too. For a total of 30 pesos, about $2.60, I have three new garments to see me through the rest of the season here.

Down to another stall. Here I found a great pair of Capri pants in what I thought was black/white check but turns out to be navy/white. No problem. They were, however, a more expensive purchase; 25 pesos alone.

The gringos always wonder if they are paying the same prices as are the locals. I found out today that sometimes they are not. I saw a red short sleeved T-shirt I wanted. I asked the vendor how much. 50 pesos, he said. I balked, put it back and moved on. When I saw Chuy I asked her to see how much he might charge her. 40 pesos. I asked her to buy it for me. Now I realize that 10 pesos isn't much; 85¢ at today's exchange rate. But it's the principle of the thing. I don't like being taken advantage of just because I'm not Mexican. He got his 40 pesos and I got my shirt and saved myself 10 pesos.

Among the other things I bought from my vegetable man was this gorgeous bunch of chard. It's on the menu for dinner.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

sunday scene

I invite you to have a seaside seat at Puesto El Barcel. Order a beer or a coconut filled with its own milk or mixed with some booze or other. Kick off your sandals and dig your toes into the sand.

In front of you stretches the blue, blue sea under a cloudless sky. There aren't many people around so the only sound is the wave action on the beach. Today's waves are smaller than those on Friday, but it's gorgeous nonetheless.

Whatever troubles you will be soothed by this beautiful vista.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

keeping up

Morning read. Opera at 11. Dominoes at 3:30; Marie took revenge for her trouncing yesterday. Barbacoa for dinner. Request for beach photo will be satisfied tomorrow.

Well, it's a post, isn't it?

Friday, March 25, 2011

the social ramble

I think it was Satchel Paige who said, as one of his social dicta, "Go very light on the vices, such as carrying on in society. The social ramble ain’t restful." He was right. Prep for the luncheon on Monday, then the party, recover on Wednesday, dinner party last night . . . too much galavantin'. I spent most of the day shifting from one couch to another, one chair to another, reading and generally vegging out. I did go down to Fernando's puesto late this morning to sit on the beach and watch the waves. I ordered a mineral water and sat in a sling chair for an hour or so just staring out at the blue, blue horizon. Didn't actually fall asleep, but came very close.

Played a quick (and triumphant) round of dominoes this afternoon, then read some more ~ a fluffy mystery I wouldn't dare recommend. I should be done with tonight or tomorrow. I learned last night that the delightful talera man also sells croissants, known here as cuernitos (little horns). I planned to order a bunch but, alas, he didn't show up tonight. Maybe mañana. We decided not to go down to Dago's for dinner. Instead, I went down and ordered fish tacos to go, brought them home, and we ate in the quiet of our own dining room. Nice for a change.

Tomorrow's opera is The Queen of Spades by Tchaikovsky. Again this week, on at 11 AM our time because of the DST issue. Next week, too, when I will listen to Das Reingold, maybe. I'm not a big Wagner fan. The Met is doing Die Walküre on May 14th. Fortunately I will have an excuse for missing it. That's the day Andrew graduates from CMC and we will be in rapt attendance at this momentous occasion.

But now it's time to close up shop and go to bed. Weather has changed; it's really quite hot during the day. Maybe that's why I feel so dragged out.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

no hay jugo

We had no electricity today so I was not able to get anything posted until now. The electric company was installing new lines and a new transformer somewhere along the grid so the entire town was without juice from 7:15 this morning until about 5:15 this evening. Good day for reading. At 6 o'clock we headed over to Mac and Juan's for a wonderful dinner, 10 of us to enjoy b-b-q'd ribs and a lovely warm evening. lt's late. More tomorrow.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

the day after

Giving parties is not restful! I decided that my catering service is going out of business but not without great memories. I spent most of today in a restful mode; a little laundry, a little domino game this afternoon down at Charlotte's, now a nice quiet dinner of chicken enchiladas to use up the left-over chicken from yesterday.

I have been asked by a reader to give food details; what exactly did I serve. Various greens ~ iceberg and Romaine lettuce and spinach (I should have left it out; it was too tough) ~ dressed with vinagrette, chicken, shrimp, avocado, black beans, beets, cheese, carrots, cucumbers, chopped eggs, jicama, red onions, red peppers, and tomatoes. After two more meals, one last night and one at noon today, we've almost finished everything. For the enchiladas we've polished off the onions, red peppers and tomatoes. Mr. C ate the leftover eggs yesterday and I had beets for breakfast. Delicious.

Tomorrow evening a dinner party with Mac and Juan, their famous ribs. A welcome change from salad.

A word about the weather. It has been warm and bright, clear and beautiful. I call this 2-hour laundry weather; hang it out and it's dry in a flash! This is how we remember the weather being when we would cut loose from the gloom of the valley for 2 or 3 weeks when we first started coming here in the 90's. Last year, you may recall, we had rain in April. This year it has been just gorgeous most of the time. And the sunsets! Splendid.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

it was a delicious lunch

This morning, bright and early, I got up to start the stirring, kneading, chopping, slicing, shelling and dicing all over again. This time it was for bread, tomatoes, avocados, eggs, shrimp, and chicken. Put the focaccia in the oven at 11 AM, shot through the shower, and was ready for guests who arrived promptly at 1 PM. The 3rd floor was a Martha Stewart dream space; colorful oilcloth covers on the tables, tiny flower arrangements to signify Spring, my wonderful colored plates and napkins. It's really looked quite bright and festive.

Mr. C and I, plus some very helpful guests, carried up to the 3rd floor all the salad fixings and drinks. Here's what the buffet table looked like.

Everybody dug in and, by the time it was all over the only things left were enough fixings for our dinner tonight. We had a bit of a problem with the strawberry ice cream; the freezer was so over taxed that it was a tad slushy. But not to worry. The guests loved it ~ how often do they get home-made strawberry ice cream?? ~ and it was all gone in a flash. Much conversation, lots of laughter ~ just what a hostess hopes for. By 4 o'clock, they had all gone home and, I hope, were happy about how they had spent the afternoon.

Then it was time for the hostess to have a quiet moment to reflect on the warmth and delight experienced in the company of these 16 wonderful women. Some are here year around, some are here for only a few weeks, some for several months.

No matter how long we share this town it is always special when we can get together. I am very, very grateful that I know all of them. One of our group is moving away to Puerta Vallerta. When (if) I do this next year, perhaps she'll come back to see us all.

I sat upstairs for a couple of hours to unwind from the job of being a hostess. I realize, however, that it is in fact a fun and satisfying thing to do, to entertain friends, to have a nice place for them to gather to eat and drink and be merry. The weather was perfect and the view was sensational. It was a lot of work but well worth it. Next year perhaps dinner?

Monday, March 21, 2011

notes to the harried hostess

Note #1:
Get veggies for tomorrow's salad lunch party. Tomatoes, jicama, pipinas, avocados, beets, carrots, lettuce, and especially spinach.

What? No spinach? Why is it when "spinach" is at the top of your shopping list, there is no spinach to be found. Anywhere. My verdura stall always has spinach ~ big fresh bunches of young, tender leaf spinach ~ but not today. What to do? I scoured the market and finally found one stall with one slightly wilted and over-priced bunch.

Moving on to the grape tomato lady so the guests can have the pleasure of these little gems. Hoy, no hay. What? Well, perhaps the gods of salad lunches are telling me something.

Note #2:
Look for some nice ripe strawberries. Oh my, they were in great abundance. I found the stall where Chuy buys hers. A sure sign of the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval. Bought a kilo for 12 pesos (less than $1). Mr. C will make strawberry ice cream for dessert for my guests.

Note #3:
Get busy preparing all this food for tomorrow's party. This will include peeling, chopping, dicing, slicing, poaching, boiling, shelling. OK, I can do this with my favorite helpers. Here they are, bless them!

This one's French and Lord help the person who gets between me and my Cuisinart.

This little gizmo was advertised on TV several years ago. I bought it and I absolutely swear by it. It makes a dynamite salsa in about 5 minutes. Dices like a dream.

Note # 4:P
Prepare protein for luncheon. Poach chicken breasts. Boil eggs for those guests who don't eat meat. Put together bean salad. See previous sentence. Another addition in the protein category is shrimp. I purchased it this morning from Dago's father-in-law at his fish market in Armeria. One and a half kilos of shrimp. I boiled up two pans of water with a pinch of salt, divided the shrimp and tossed them in the pots and boiled them for 1 minute. Not quite done, so another 30 seconds. No, not yet. Another 30 seconds and they were absolutely perfect.

Just as sweet and tender as the shrimp Dago serves at his puesto.

Note #4:
Get chairs and tables set up on the 3rd floor. Put together all the plates, flatware, glasses, linens, etc. Borrow what you don't have. Prepare strawberries for ice cream and for garnishes. So Mr. C and I hauled a couple of tables and some chairs upstairs. He, meanwhile, had taken down the hammock and the swinging chair and stashed them away. Fernando is bringing more tables and chairs up from his puesto in the morning. I'll put the colorful tablecloths on Fernando's trusty beach tables and try to disguise them as best I can. The last touches will be to put the flowers on the tables, be sure the salt and pepper are on each table, the glasses are sparkling, and everything is nicely chilled.

Tomorrow morning I will get up early to get the focaccia put together and ready to bake. I've made the olive oil/garlic/rosemary mix needed for the recipe. Then it will be a matter of finding enough serving bowls and utinsels for all the sides for the salad. I have all the liquid refreshment ready to go into an ice chest and a big bucket.

The weather for the last few days has been gorgeous; true spring in Cuyutlán. That's what this little party is all about. To bid adieu to winter and welcome another glorious Primavera.

Note #5:
Have a wonderful time. Enjoy your guests. Enjoy the delicious food you have prepared. It's a party, after all!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

the Tootsie-Pop moon

Last night at Bobbie and Philip's we strolled out to the beach to watch the moon rise. It was the closest it will be to the earth this year, and the biggest it has seemed in something like 18 years. And it was. A big orange Necco moon rose up over our little corner of the world and we all admired it and photographed it as it lit up the sky then faded from orange to pink to white. Absolute magic. But my puny little camera could not do it justice.

And the dinner party was pretty magical, too. An eclectic group of guests, from an investigative reporter for the Guadalajara Reporter to a man who is an accomplished birder and visits Cuyutlán every weekend to see who's here (birds, that is), to a recently published author of a novel, "The Midwife of Venice." See here for an entrance to her web site where you can read Chapter 1. I wanted to talk to her about her research but there were just too many people and too much going on.

The conversations throughout the house were lively and varied, everything from what's going on in Libya to the legalization of drugs to the history of our little village to the type and numbers of undergarments worn by certain residents ~ full, some, none. This last topic cause much hilarity among those involved. Yes, it was late in the evening and the wine had been generous.

Today I spent most of the day getting ready for a big luncheon I am having here on Tuesday to celebrate (late) Primavera. It comes a day after the birthday of Benito Juarez and a week or so before the departure of one of our group, Maria, who with her husband is decamping to move north to Puerta Vallerta. I went to Tecoman this morning to do some last-minute "big store" shopping; tomorrow's tianguis will have to provide the rest. Mr. C has agreed to make strawberry ice cream for our dessert. I will take pictures.

This afternoon we went down to have a visit and sundowner with our friend Patty who lives on the very north edge of the colonia, closest to town. I remember when she was looking at the property she eventually bought; it was an act of faith. It was an old, unfinished place with lots of potential but in need of a whole lot of work. But she took it on and now has one of the prettiest houses in the village. It's always a pleasure to visit there, to sit out by the beach and look at the setting sun. A lovely way to end a Sunday.

This photo was taken at the surprise birthday party Peter threw for Alex two weeks ago. Cait and Mike flew out from Bozeman, the kids showed up as did many of Alex's co-workers and friends.

Here they are, left to right: Andrew, Alex, Em, Cait, looked to the future. Andrew looks as thought he knew it all along, Alex looks stunned, Em looks thrilled with what she sees out there, and Cait looks surprised and delighted. I hope the future holds everything these wonderful people hope for and dream of.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

another marvelous party

Bobbie and Philip threw another of their marvelous parties with a great mix of people, delicious food ~ including corned beef and cabbage in celebration of St. Patrick's Day ~ and splendid conversation among the 20-plus guests. More on that tomorrow. I am posting this tonight to get in under the every-day-write wire. Besides that, I'm tired and need to get to bed.

Just finished an interesting book: The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls. Actually it was quite harrowing; an autobiography about her childhood growing up in, among other places, Welch, West Virginia. The ability of children to flourish despite parents' best efforts is remarkable.

Opera was absolutely wonderful. New modem meant no fade-outs, no quits, no lags. That whole thing was a fine idea.

Friday, March 18, 2011

a day late

I know I missed yesterday but I have a really good excuse. No internet. But you will be very happy to know that I am sitting at my own desk using my own internet line, courtesy of Telmex and Carlos Slim (who owns everything having to do with communications in Mexico. See Forbes' Richest Man in the World.) It was quite an adventure getting it all hooked up since the installation instructions do NOT support Mac users. I slipped the CD into my laptop and what came up was a collection of folders that went nowhere and had files of binary numbers that were meaningless but that I knew contained the priceless gems I needed. But I couldn't do a thing. I would have to do all the preliminary set-up via a PC.

First thing yesterday I set out to find someone with a PC laptop who would either come to my house and run through the CD set-up procedure, or loan me a machine so I could do it. I settled on finding Danny, a Canadian who spends several weeks here every winter. But he was not to be found. I wrote a note pleading my case and tucked it under the windshield wiper on his truck. Then I tore home to get ready for lunch with Mrs. Neighbor Nelson. We headed down to the malecón for a delicious shrimp feed at El Chino's (Curly's), who just happens to be the father of the young woman Danny is courting. It's warming up here, and even the breeze coming off the ocean was warm. Shrimp was good, conversation was also very good. Later, Marie and I played dominoes here and, as she was leaving and I was bemoaning the fact that Danny hadn't shown up she reminded me that she had a PC that he had in fact given her to use (she's also a Mac person). So I brought it home, hooked everything up, and finally initialized the modem. But still no connection to Prodigy. The lights were all on and it looked like it would all work but I couldn't actually connect. It was as though Telmex hadn't flipped the switch to let us in. But last night Mr. C was fussing with it suddenly we're connected.

And this morning, here we are, all hooked up and firing on all cylinders.

So that's my sad story about why I couldn't get a post up yesterday.

I heard from Alex that Em and Andrew are on an inspection tour of east coast colleges this week. Here she is at Berkeley College at Yale. This is the college her grandfather Jordan attended.

I think next week they'll be touring California college campuses ~ UC Berkeley and Stanford among others. She will be graduating from Thacher in June, 2012. Hard to believe.

Time to get stirring here. Javier has revved up the saw mill next door, Chuy will be here in an hour. Dago's tonight, a dinner party tomorrow evening. Tomorrow's opera, Lucia Di Lammarmoor with Natalie Dessaye. It's on here at 11 AM instead of noon; we're not on DST yet.

It's great to be connected to the big world! Speedy, too.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Happy Birthday, Ruby

Today my grandniece Ruby celebrates her 6th birthday. I hope it is a great one, kiddo!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

struggling with a PC

I am in the cypercafe in town, using a (gasp! gag!) PC to post this. Mr. C came down here earlier, loaded up the desktop with all his daily readings so I am reduced to using a machine that is so user unfriendly I am amazed it ever caught on. Javier still has not replaced the modem for his set-up, so here I am.

We went in to Tecoman this morning to get hair cuts, shop, buy a new plant for the second floor landing. On the way Mr. C said, ¨Maybe we should stop at Telmex and check out getting our own system.¨ That was fine with me, so we did, signed up for our own connection, and will be up and running within the next couple of days. The best part is that when we leave we simply unplug, return the modem, and don´t have to pay for the time we're not here. Then when we come back next year we pick up another modem, plug in, wait a day or two, and we´re ready. That´s much better than relying on a somewhat unreliable neighbor. Total cost for internet connection AND telephone for a month is less than $50. The no-stress factor is worth a whole lot more.

I paid a visit to our little local library this afternoon. I donated a couple dozen books and picked up one or two to read. The holdings must be at least 6,000 titles by now, mainly paperback, mainly fiction. Good vacation reads.

Must dash over to Dago´s to ask if he will sell me some shrimp to add to my fish soup for dinner. I made a very delicious and aromatic broth earlier, have let it sit all day, and will drop in a few pieces of lovely pargo and some shrimp and sit down to enjoy a fragrant, rich soup.

No photos today. I wouldn't have the faintest idea how to do that. Let´s hope Telmex calls soon with the go-ahead!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Neighbor Nelson's porch

I am sitting up on NN's little porch using his wi-fi signal. As far as I can tell Javier has not yet left home to drive over to Tecoman to get his modem checked out. So our casa is still "dark" as far as the internet is concerned. Perhaps later today?

Beautiful things at tianguis this morning, including mounds of gleaming red strawberries. Very nice chard, fat bunches of spinach, two big boxes of round zucchini, just picked. I picked through some of the piles of used clothing; I frequently find a treasure or two. New items this week: Barbie plastic patio furniture. Chaise longue, umbrella stand, beach chairs. I think I'll get some for my papier mâché dolls.

I finished "Room" a couple of weeks ago and have been mulling it over since. What a powerful story, told with such imagination through the eyes of 5-year old Jack, a wise little boy whose take on the world makes perfect sense, even if the world doesn't. I highly recommend it.

Time to go home for lunch and get fueled up for an afternoon of dominoes on Marie's porch. I got whupped yesterday. Back for more today.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

from the cybercafe

Still no internet at home. Javier will go into Tecoman to the Telmex office to have his modem checked out. If it is the problem, he'll get a new one. If that's not it, who knows when we'll be back online. Meanwhile, I am in this little cybercafe, 4 machines strong (but I've got my own). There are two little boys playing games and a third boy wearing headphones, typing furiously. The going rate is 12 pesos an hour, about 95¢. Mr. C will come to take my seat. Then I will go over to Marie's for an afternoon of dominoes and chisme.

Brief report on last night's Carnival. There were a dozen or so floats, lots of people in town, music and festivities. We didn't go up town since the floats passed by our house one block over. A couple of big ones with flashing lights, music, people dancing and trying to keep their balance during it all. I don't know who won the "best float" prize. Javier (he of the internet) and his friends held their own celebration out in the street around the corner from us. Loud music, singing, high hilarity. They finally wore themselves out by 4:30 AM this morning. It didn't really keep me awake; I was just vaguely aware from time to time that something was going on and it wasn't the usual dead silence with waves as background music. Marie went to Javier's house about 9 AM this morning to check on the condition of the internet; he was NOT in his usual fine form.

She and I took a lovely walk on the beach this morning, first time I've actually been on the sand this year. I've strolled the malecon many times, but not down by the shore. Standing on the tide line and looking back toward the puestos and unbrellas you can see how far the little tidal surge went on Friday night; just about to the edge of the chairs. It didn't appear that anyone moved things back further away from the water. I also read a report that there was nothing discernible up in Manzanillo. Neighbor Nelson reported that there was quite a surge out on Catalina Island, where they keep a boat. No damage, however. Just a lot of rocking and rolling in the harbor.

We've made our plane reservations to go down to Claremont for Andrew's graduation from Clarement McKenna on May 14th. I thought he had just started kindergarten. Guess I missed something.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

a no-internet Saturday

I have not actually fallen off the Lenten promise wagon already. It's that we have had no internet since Thursday evening so I couldn't post yesterday. And it was a very important day indeed. First, it was our beloved granddaughter Emily's 17th birthday. I have news from her mother that she is sick, not a good thing on a birthday, or any day for that matter. At any rate, Happy Birthday dear Emily, and get well soon!

Then there was the incredible news from Japan. Our little village has seen its share of earthquakes and its resulting devastation and ruin. The death and destruction from this temblor are overwhelming. My friend Marie has family who live there and she has not been able to get in touch with them. People were out in the streets talking about the possibility of a tidal surge here as a result of the quake. We had to take Liz to the airport and since it is basically on the beach, a big surge might make it to the landing strip. And we couldn't check the internet for the latest updates. Fortunately Neighbor Nelson's line was working and by mid-morning we had heard that the worst thing might be a three foot surge. As it turned out, nothing happened to speak of. Last evening, while eating at Dago's, there was a one-wave surge that came up as far as the chairs closest to the seaside. Otherwise, nothing.

I didn't get out my usual opera alert: "Boris Godunov" today. Russian. Dark. Next week: "Lucia de Lammermoor." Italian. Bloody.

Tonight is the 4-day-late Carnival parade that we should have had on Tuesday night. We may stroll up town to see the floats. Not really my scene but I suppose one should do it at least once.

Those of you in the US will spring ahead tonight. Daylight savings doesn't start here until April 3.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Mr. C grows a garden

As soon as we arrived in December, Mr. C sorted out his garden seeds and started right in. He brought down Mexican sunflowers, zinnias, coreopsis, and Mexican primroses. The coreopsis, which grow like mad at our home in the valley and reseeds itself over and over, has so far refused the offer of a life in Mexico; nothing. And as a matter of fact I've never seen them here. Perhaps it's too salty or damp. Everything else, though, has responded to his care and attention.

This is the Mexican primrose that grows like a weed at home and is almost impossible to get rid of. It has light pink flowers and is fairly shrubby. I'm not sure he brought the right seeds; looks more like arugula to me, and I don't remember our primrose leaves looking like this. Time will tell, I guess.

Here is the one healthy zinnia he managed to grow. Our friend Jack has said that he grew zinnias once and, like this one, they were 3 - 4' tall and didn't reseed. So much for the zinnias.

These are the sunflowers, though. A bright orange with yellow centers, they grow well, produce lots of blossoms that last a long time.

He also planted some in a big pot with the Mexican Desert Rose plant in the front patio. The mix of colors ~ bright orange peeking out from the lovely pink rose flowers ~ looks very Mexican.

A parting photo of our front patio's luscious bougainvillea. It is a two-toned job that was an unholy mess when we got down here. But with some new soil, lots of water, a dose of fertilizer, and a severe pruning job it is now so happy and is bestowing its beauty in the garden. If allowed, it will arch its way over the wall and lavish its loveliness in our vacant lot next door. I want it in the garden, all to myself.

Tonight we are having a farewell dinner with Liz who is heading home tomorrow after a 7-week stay at Fernando's casa. Not everyone who comes here falls in love with the place. It has its warts, some of them quite large. I think she enjoyed some of what she found here, but some of it she didn't like. I don't know if she'll be back, but I hope she takes a few good memories home with her.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Miercoles de Cenizas

Last evening Marie hosted a lovely dinner party to celebrate Mardi Gras. It included pancakes in the form of yummy chicken crêpes, but no foil-wrapped goodies (see yesterday's post). Chuy had also cooked chiles picadillo and arroz con crema for dessert. Yours truly contributed the salad. It was a soft, mild evening and we sat out on the little terrace and had a very fine time. I knew that today would begin the long slog to Easter that would include a daily write so I was taking it all in. Here it is.

I don't usually delve into things I feel are too personal or controversial, but I want to say something that pertains to last evening's guests. And this isn't easy, but I had a real revelation. We can ~ or perhaps I should say "I can" ~ support a social issues on its relative merits because I think it is right or fair to do so, but it's usually one step removed. It's not me they're talking about.   It's when I am confronted by the reality of those issues, by the very people who are affected by those issues, that my eyes are truly opened and I really understand the far-reaching effect that attitudes or laws or statutes have. Last evening, there was a couple ~ two men ~ who were married in San Francisco in 2008. They are the most delightful, loving, kind and generous people you would ever meet, both to one another and to others. I looked at them and thought, "What's all the fuss about? These two have been together for 25 years, through all the joys and sorrows that relationships provide, and here they are, together and thriving. Why should they not be able to marry one another? How does their marriage "threaten" mine, that being one of the arguments? Who can possibly defend the prohibition of their union?" Any of us who have been together for 25 years or more know how incredibly difficult it is to forge such a partnership and they have done it despite every roadblock and sanction, in the face of ugly, hateful protest. They have done it with the support and love of their families and friends, just like the rest of us have done it. I am honored to know them.

I am starting my Lenten contemplation on these notes; compassion, understanding, acceptance, belief, respect. None of these is easy; all are essential if we expect to live a civil life.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Shrove Tuesday, Mardi Gras, Pancake Day

Eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow begins the long Lenten fast. Or so it is preached. I remember as a child I had to give up something for Lent, something I particularly liked or enjoyed, such as dessert or the Saturday afternoon matinee movie. The time saved was supposed to be spent in quiet contemplation. Come on! I was probably 8 years old when this was first explained to me. What did I know about quiet contemplation, or want to know, for that matter? Lent was also the time when we had a meatless Wednesday and fish every Friday. (That habit stuck; I still do fish on Friday.)

When I went away to school we had Lenten "projects" we were assigned. I remember a couple of years when we all ~ the entire boarding community ~ had to make baby clothes to be given to a local "home" for "unfortunate girls." Again, we had two or three meatless meals during Lent, usually Wednesday, Friday and Sunday evening supper. The lucky day students didn't have to do a thing and could eat whatever their Mom's served up! We did have a big pancake feast at Shrove Tuesday breakfast, with little foil-wrapped prizes folded into the batter and cooked into the pancake. Things like pennies (for future wealth), tiny metal toys (fertility tokens!), and always one "diamond" ring signifying, I guess, the prospect of eternal bliss.

Later on I gave up things like smoking or swearing or some other halo-polishing, wing-whitening activity of which I was particularly fond. I know someone who always gives up her favorite prosecco before dinner. These days? I figure I do enough quiet contemplation already. And I gave up smoking almost 40 years ago. Still working on the swearing.

This year I am taking something up instead of giving it up. I have decided that not writing my blog every day is getting too confusing. Mainly I can't remember everything that has happened unless I write it down right away. For at least the next 47 days (40 days of Lent plus 6 Sundays that don't count), I will write here every day. I trust you will be relieved when Easter finally arrives on April 24th. I know I will.

Monday, March 7, 2011

in the monday market

Among the gems in this morning's tinaguis were these gorgeous Poblano chilies

and a colorful layout of calabasas redondos and yellow star fruit, the slightly sweet, slightly tart fruit that is so popular here.

I didn't buy any of these treasures, but thought they were so beautiful you should see them.

By the way, I forgot to comment on Saturday's opera, Rossini's "Armida" with Renée Flemming. Sublime, all-time divine.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

the fastest 10 days on record

She came, she had a great time, and she went home. The last thing I remember was putting the flowers in the guest room and taking off for the airport. After that it was all a blur. The plane arrived right on time, we saw her getting off and disappearing into the immigration hall, and then we waited. And waited. And waited. Pretty soon a couple came out and said to me, "Don't worry. She's coming." She was the absolutely last person they let out. Something about a mix-up in documents. But she arrived safe and sound and we piled in the car and took off for a 10-day visit that went by like that! The days included sleeping late, hammock time with books, dominoes, travel, good food, a really fun dinner party Tuesday evening in celebration of Alex's birthday. I stuck a candle in the flan and we all sang a rousing "Happy Birthday!"

Wednesday morning we drove to Tlaquepaque for two nights. Our friend Liz went along with us to our favorite B &  B, Casa de las Flores. Thursday morning the three ladies took a cab out to Tonala for the huge market. We said good-bye to Mr. C, who is not much of a shopper under the best of circumstances and definitely not one in Tonala. Up one side and down the other, up one street on both sides, through the central jardin, then back into a cab with our various and sundry purchases back to Tlaquepaque.

Alex, meanwhile, hunted down the oilcloth lode and came back with 6 or 7 big pieces to take home. She is the Oilcloth Queen of Snowden Avenue. We all took a nice siesta, then went down to the patio for a pre-comida margarita in preparation for a lovely dinner at the Rio San Pedro as guests of Liz.

Delicious food, delightful setting, a waiter to bring home to meet the folks! After dinner we strolled home; Alex and I poked around in some great shops while the old folks went on home.

Friday morning we drove back to Cuyutlán, stopping in Guadalajara for a run through CostCo and Mega for some hard-to-find-items. Back here by 3, in time for a speedy game of dominoes before dinner on the beach, this time at Lila's puesto. In fact, Alex didn't get to Dago's at all this year. Saturday Marie had one of her famous martini parties with about 15 women, nibbling on goodies and tossing back a martini or two. Great fun, and Alex got to see several people she had not yet run into on this trip. I also missed the opera; no internet. When we got home, Chuy's fabulous chiles picadillo were awaiting us for dinner. They are absolutely the best.

Sunday morning, big glasses of OJ, a domino game, more reading, more hammock time. Sunday evening, tacos de lengue, her favorite.

Monday off to tiagues with a post-shopping stop at the Jacaranda for bean tacos and beer. This little indulgence has become a ritual for Marie and me; we go together at the beginning of the season, take our visiting daughters, then one more feast on the last Monday of our stay. One stop on the way home, at the ferreteria Verdusco to check out their oilcloth. Two more pieces added to the pile. More dominoes in the afternoon. Then it was time for Alex to pack up to leave on Tuesday afternoon. We drove to Manzanillo airport for her 4:30 flight. And suddenly she was gone. But she left me with this beautiful glass heart as a memento and gift.

I'm going to ask Fernando to get me some fishing line from his vast store so I can hang it in the window in our bedroom. These glass hearts are now all the rage in the Tlaquepaque shops; it's something new every year.

Today is one of the prettiest days we have had all season. It is warm, slight breeze, clear sky which means we can see the sparkling sea in front and the green mountains in the back. I went over to Jack's (actually Fernando's) this morning for a swim; perfect. Liz invited us to join her at Fernando's puesto for lunch. There were lots of people on the beach today. No wonder with such perfect weather. Tonight we might get tacitos, although I can't imagine eating anything more.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Saturday breakfast

Chuy brought us a big hunk of papaya for our enjoyment. And enjoy it we did. It was the sweetest, most flavorful papaya we've had this year. For this morning's desayuno I sliced up three big pieces, squeezed lime over it, and savored every bite.

This splendid meal followed on last night's camerones al mojo de ajo sin cascara at Dago's, with enough shrimp saved for my "opera salad." Good sized group gathered to eat, drink and watch the sunset. It's a ritual ~ Friday night at Dago's ~ that I look forward to and thoroughly enjoy. Earlier in the day I went down to Bobbie's with Marie for a swim and a round of dominoes. We forgot the swim idea and went straight to the domino. I was winning big time when I became a victim of hubris, angered the gods of games, got two huge hands and that's all she wrote. Marie and I played Thursday afternoon and again, bad tiles, bad score, big loss. So it goes.

Our trip into Manzanillo on Thursday to renew the FM3 was quick and easy. The only difference is that last year we got our renewal on the same day; this year we have to go back in 4 weeks, April 4, the day before we take off for a week in San Miguel. A nuisance. After dealing with immigration, we tore out to Santiago to pick up a lamp shade for the jar lamp I'm having made, then into the Commercial, a big grocery store. In fact, the Commercial was the first "supermarket" store in Manzanillo, opened probably 20 years ago. Before that, shopping was done from one tiny store to another and if you found ten items out of the 25 on your list you felt victorious. Now it's almost too easy. From shopping to lunch at La Posada, the little pink hotel out on Las Brisas. Gorgeous setting; lousy food, but who cares. We got home at 2 o'clock, having gotten everything on our "to do today" list except the bottle of Cointreau Mr. C needs to make his sock'o margaritas. We were quite pleased at the success of our venture.

Today's opera is Armida with Renée Flemming. I am hoping the internet works this week unlike last week when I missed my Saturday treat. I still had my shrimp salad, though.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

the prettiest hotel in town

I can't get the images to load tonight. Check back tomorrow. Meanwhile, here are the day's events.

On our way back from doing chores in Tecoman, Mr. C asked, "Did you say that Morelos has good chilaquiles?" Yes indeed I had said that after my last breakfast there some time ago. He declared that he was sick of salads so let's go there for lunch. It is by far the prettiest hotel in town.

Located one block up from the malecon, it covers one square block. It has large, airy, spotlessly cleaned and maintained rooms, a beautiful open-air dining room, swimming pool, open kitchen. It's always packed at Christmas and Easter, but today we were the only patrons. It was a bit early, but still, the entire town is pretty empty right now.

When we got there the place was deserted; nobody in the kitchen or at the front desk. But the nephew of the (now deceased) owner spotted us, came out of the office, and assure us they could feed us. So we sat down, ordered a beer, two chilaquiles and enjoyed the beautiful surroundings. Lots of hanging plants, flowering shrubs, shiny clean tile floors, tables ready for guests. Pretty soon, lunch arrived.

Absolutely delicious. They still know how to do it.

Tomorrow it's off to Manzanillo to renew the FM3, then to Santiago to buy a new lamp shade, then marketing to get some specialty items we can't get around here such as whipping cream, Cointreau, and whatever else catches our eye. Lunch someplace, then home. Maybe even time for a quick game of dominoes.

Alex Chronicles will follow soon. Let me just say it was spectacular, having her here for 10 whole days. She's now back being a very important person on her campus!