Monday, January 30, 2012

tianguis special

Two gentlemen were selling these enormous radishes at the market this morning. They are about the size of plums. My eyes popped when I saw them. "Mucho fertilizante!" I said. They grinned and agreed. But probably not. They cut one open so I could see it was not woody. Beautiful.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

first pick

These brilliant zinnias came from our own garden, the seeds having been planted by our gardener shortly before we arrived. The new little circle garden is also alive with beautiful butterflies ~ a bright orange-red species and a stunning yellow and black striped and stippled variety. They're probably laying eggs all over the flowers which will eventually turn into worms that will eat everything in sight, but for now it's beautiful. We also planted some Mexican Sunflowers today that were started from seed when we got here. They should be blooming in a couple of weeks. Neno transplanted three big bougainvilleas from a friend's yard into ours. We'll see how they fare. It always makes me crazy to see the sorely neglected, un-pruned, un-watered bougainvilleas thriving and in full, glorious bloom along the highway. And we tend to ours so diligently and have to coax and wheedle into life every single bloom and leaf. T'ain't fair! On the other hand, the zinnias DO look lovely.

Yesterday's opera was gorgeous and ended as usual with Tosca hurling herself off the turret while the evil Scarpia lies dead in the next room. And good riddance to him, I say! Then a quick game of dominoes which I lost pitiously, but it's just a game, right?

Today we celebrated 48 years of wedded bliss with a lovely breakfast cooked by Mr. C and served on the front balcony overlooking the sparkling Pacific. Life is good.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

the craft faire

Yesterday I went in to Manzanillo to a craft faire selling goods supposedly representing various parts of Mexico. Although it was a treat to be in the big city, the faire was a bit disappointing. The first thing to greet visitors was this big display of, well, stuff. The usual stuff you find on street corners or in the airport shops. Not a good start. This was the last (and only) photo I took before the battery died. Other things, however, proved to be more interesting. There were several booths selling Oaxaca molé, which I detest. Lots of beautiful blouses made in Mexico but of cloth from India. A good selection of bara clay cookware; I wouldn't dare bring another pot into the house! Some nice embroidered clothing also from Oaxaca, table linens from Patzcuaro, lots of cheap shoes, gaudy jewelry, scents, some leather from Quiroga (near Patz, in the state of Michoacan). Also some nice rugs from Urupan but if we had rugs in the house I'd just trip over them so forget that. The faire had been going on for a couple of weeks, and probably the best of what it had to offer had already been snatched up so what was left was nothing to write home (or a blog post) about. We were all sorely disappointed in what we saw. I did, however, make a couple of nice purchases.

I bought some beautiful wooden spoons to replace those that had gotten completely rotten out by the humidity over the summer here.

The three shiny ones are made of bamboo; the others are unvarnished pine. They are wonderful on the clay bara cookware I use here and on Teflon® I use at home.

Then I bought this nifty shirt made out of a cotton material you might characterize as "dishcloth" weave.

It will be perfect over turtlenecks or T-shirts in the cooler weather of Suchitlán, where we are going in late February for a week's vacation from our vacation.

Finally, I found what I had really come to see ~ beautiful aromatic baskets made out of pine needles. (This photo is not mine; my camera battery died after the first shot! Thank you, Harry Kroyer.)

This was a case where almost everything had been sold. I found two tiny baskets with lids, perfect to nestle in with my sheets to give them a nice, woodsy scent. The weaving is very intricate and tidy. I saw a few that had some color but most were open and flat. I don't think I'd store food in them because of the heavy scent. Or just have one open on a table or shelf to perfume a room. Here's what I bought:

I did not come across anything over which to mull whether or not I really, really, REALLY wanted it. Nor did I have any regrets on the way home over a treasure left behind. The only thing I might have wanted was a large woven pine needle chest to keep blankets or sweaters in, but there was no such animal.

Dago's tonight. Opera tomorrow: Tosca. Forty-eighth wedding anniversary on Sunday. Where did the time go?

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

news from the beach

The talk over the weekend was the earthquake we all felt on Saturday afternoon; 4.6 centered just off Manzanillo, 35 miles NW of here. I was listening to the opera and felt three sharp jolts. Scared? You bet! This temblor came 9 years to the day that we had the big one, 7.4 - 7.6, in 2003. And by Mr. C's various calculations and researches, we are indeed in the time frame for another serious shake. This area has severe earthquakes every 8-12 years; we may have a 3-year grace period. He says this little shiver in Manzanillo doesn't count. Well, it counted for me!

The 49'ers lost; Newt won. The gods must be crazy.

Fernando came to the house on Saturday to dig out the well. It gets clogged with sand and we can't pump any water. It's a very messy job. He had to go down to the bottom and shovel sand into a bucket. Martin (his brother-in-law and cheerful co-painter) than hauled up the bucket, emptied it in the vacant lot, lowered it down into the well and the whole process started again. It took them about 3 hours to dig it all out. More than worth the $35 USD we paid for the work.

Tianguis yielded up another stunning pair of sofa pants. Actually, they're more like settee pants; linen/silk combo in lighter colors. Cost 75¢. I already have a couple of tank tops that will "go" perfectly.

I think a good challenge would be to come down here with only the clothes on my back and get my entire wardrobe from the stalls and stalls of new and used clothing.

They're back at the painting this morning. And they'll be at it most of the week. This is just for the exterior, west-facing walls. Then there are the interior house walls and the two big stairwells. I would say another two weeks before it's all finished, including the two downstairs bedroom, the living room and kitchen. Fernando has vowed this is his last painting job!

Here's a spot of local color. The family that lives down on the corner are a very enterprising lot. They operate the only laundry service in town - Lavanderia Mahala. They also provide baños and regaderas for a fee. This is their sign. This photo is not upside down.

I'm planning to drive down to Charlotte's tonight to watch the State of the Union. That is, as of now . . . Who knows how I'll feel about it at 8 o'clock.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

the new house

I am quite pleased with the outcome of the great painting project. There are still some places on the interior walls that need a new coat, but the exterior looks quite nice. And I think the door color and wall color worked out just fine. See the post below for comparison.

We're off to Fernando's for comida. Fish and beer.

Re: South Carolina. Newt, Mitt, Ron, Rick. Aren't names wonderful? What a country!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

first the doors, now the walls

The great door re-do is finished and they all look gorgeous. Here's a look at the front door and garage doors before painting. The original color was a deep turquoise, a fine compliment to the tan exterior. But it faded badly and was a washed-out shade and the wood needed sanding and priming.

After a thorough prep, the new paint got sprayed on. As I said in a prior post, the color I wanted was an oxblood shade or the color all ship's hulls were once painted. But that's not quite what I got, as you can see.

It's a bit more orange that I would have liked, but with the new exterior wall color I think it will be quite stunningl, muy Mexicana!

Fernando is due to start painting tomorrow. I'll keep you up with the progress.

The other door that got painted was the one on the hot water heater (known as a boiler) closet. This is the tiny heater.

This is the heater in its old, shabby closet.

Here is its shiny new housing. Of course, the boiler is still a rusting-out relic that will be replaced next year, but for now it works just fine.

Saturday's opera is a brand new one, "The Enchanted Island." Read the NYTimes review here. Last week's archive presentation of "Norma" with Joan Sutherland and Marilyn Horne, conducted by Richard Bonning (Sutherland's husband) was divine. Well, she is a priestess after all!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

el año de las puertas

Every year there's something else, or so it seems. One year it was all the windows. Another it was painting. Still another it was the floors and kitchen. This year has turned out to be, so far, the year of the doors. We decided to have all the exterior doors refinished to get rid of 20 years of accumulated salt, dust, rain and sun damage, all the pleasures that our little village by the sea has to offer. This means five wooden doors will be removed, sanded, stained, resanded, varnished, rehung, with new door handles. Then the front door and garage doors will be sanded, primed and repainted. The estimate, without hardware, about $500. Time to completion? One week, mas o menos.


Ennrique, his father and his younger brother arrived this afternoon to begin work. The first priority was to get the door to the door frame on the downstairs bedroom repaired. Raul, the window guy, is coming to install a new screen door on Thursday so all the woodwork has to be finished by then. They removed the door and frame and started to work.


Today the workmen took all the wooden door off their hinges, removed the hardware, lined them up in the back and started the great sanding effort. Fortunately, for them, they have electric sanders, but still do a great deal of the work by hand. This is what a door looked like before sanding.

And after.


Seven PM and Ennrique, Horacio (his life long buddy and partner in this enterprise) and the other workmen are just about to finish up day three of the great door project. All the doors have been sanded, stained, sanded again, and varnished. They have a finish like glass. They are lined up in the back like so many one-eyed sentinels.

Tomorrow they will start early so as to finish everything, or hope to. What's left? The front door and the garage door and a small louvered door that belongs in the front street shower. Actually, it's right inside the front door and is meant for beach users to wash off the salt and sand before trekking through the house. Since the door fell off its hinges we use it as a mini-bodega for water bottles and cases of beer. With a new door we'll undoubtedly use it for the same thing but at least it will be hidden from sight.


Unlike the 8 o'clock mentioned yesterday, the crew arrived at 9:30. Half of them started in on the sanding job of the front and garage doors. The other half got busy hanging the now silky-smooth interior doors. The biggest push is to get the small bedroom frame and door hung so the new screen door can be installed when Raul shows up, although that probably won't be until this afternoon.

In the night I had a terrible feeling I had purchased the wrong color for the front door. I want an oxblood color to compliment the new darker brown exterior color but I feared the color I had chosen was too orange. Talk about trivia that keeps one awake! So first thing this morning Mr. C opened a can of the paint and I daubed some on the door, stood back and gave it a good look. Still not sure. So I daubed on some of the new exterior color and, together, they look just fine. Because of my 10-year bout of laser treatments on my eyes I have become quite color blind. Actually, it's more of a "shade" problem; I can see blue but I'm not always sure of the shade of the blue and if asked to match two shades of blue, frequently I can't tell the difference. All of this by way of saying I think I did ok on this effort but we shall see. Ennrique said this morning that they are going to be finished by 1 PM today which means everything will have been painted by the end of their work today and I'll take some photos. You can be the judge of how close I got to the preferred color.

Monday, January 9, 2012

the Monday hustle

The first item on the agenda was the tianguis of course. No loitering today as I had many other things to get done. Buy the veggies and five avocados at my usual spot, get the bananas and strawberries, four coleus plants to put in the shady part of the garden. No sofa pants today. Sped home, unloaded the car and picked up Mr. C for a trip to Tecoman for more errands. First stop was the paint store to order the paint for the doors ~ Really Rusty ~ and the exterior walls ~ Dark Oak. Next was the bank. Fortified with cheap pesos, I went to the computer store where I had dropped off my printer for repair. Well, it was almost too embarrassing to report, but this was the problem. When I changed the ink cartridge I forgot to remove the protective strip over the ink dispenser so, of course, the thing blinked its red light and refused to go anywhere. The repair guy smiled amiably, showed me what the problem was, and I paid him 30 pesos for his extremely polite explanation. Next stop was the shop that sells the delicious Mexican cheddar and the fabulous bacon, sliced to your preference. This place is among a warren of tiny food and specialty shops off the beaten track for those of us not so familiar with the neighborhood. But now we know. Then back to the paint store to pick up our formula-mixed paint. Photos when it's all done. Next, on to the market for things I didn't get earlier. And finally, home for lunch. I was hoping we would go out to one of the three or four good spots in Tecoman, but that didn't happen. Perhaps when we're not so driven to complete chores. Then a quick domino game; what would a day be without one.

Tomorrow I have to go back to Tecoman to the vivero for a couple of bags of potting soil so Neno can mulch the beds before he plants the coleus. I am also looking for a new crotan for the second floor landing.

The one we had got terribly infested with plaga and we ripped it up and threw it on the pyre. These beautiful plants grow quite well in this environment. There are many species from which to choose. Again, photos to come.

Another beautiful day here in Paradise has come to an end. Last night was a gorgeous luna llena; I got up at 2:30 AM and the house was flooded with light. I hope it was as beautiful where you are as it was here.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

luncheon on the beach

We strolled down to El Barcel, Fernando's puesto for a leisurely Sunday lunch. It wasn't crowded ~ bad for him, good for us ~ so we had the pick of the tables. We opted for one just on the edge of the restaurant, before you head down onto the sand and an umbrella. It was such a perfectly gorgeous day; bright sun, light breeze, the sea sparkling. Lots of people frolicking in the ocean.

We ordered a couple of beers and two platos de filete de pargo al mojo de ajo, our favorite. As long as Chuy or Grizelda (Fernando's sister) are working the grill you can be sure of a splendid meal.

First came the obligatory plate of jicama and cucumbers sprinkled with a tangy chili salt. Then the fish, fresh, tender, sweet. The apple, shredded carrot and raisin salad the perfect accompaniment. Along with some lightly spiced rice, sliced tomatoes and cucumbers and, of course, several thick slices of avocado, it was absolutely perfect! We have decided that although nobody does shrimp as well as Dago, El Barcel gets the blue ribbon for filetes.

A quick note about yesterday's opera. The most delightful thing about that performance was hearing the children squeal with joy when the wicked witch is pushed into the oven and all the other little gingerbread children are freed. Wish I had been there to see them.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

a Dago-less Friday

Instead of doing shrimp on the beach at Dago's, we accepted an invitation to a cocktail party held in a splendid home down in the colonia. The house sits right on the beach, has a wonderful open floor plan and is filled with comfortable, colorful places to sit and socialize. This is a little reading-cum-TV watching nook at one end of the living room.

When you get tired of any of that, just raise your head and look out the big sliding door.

An all-around fine evening.

Yesterday Ennrique, the door man, came to check out the doors we want to have repaired and refinished. All five of the exterior wooden doors have been badly beaten up by the weather and salt, so they'll be stripped, primed and varnished for what we hope will be another 20 years of fine service. He is also going to repair and repaint the front door and the garage doors. I'm switching from cobalt blue to oxblood red, and the outside of the house will be repainted a deeper brown than what we now have. The old shade has faded badly in the sun and now looks pale pink.

It's time for the opera, "Hansel and Gretel", from the Met.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

sofa pants

Some years ago, while undergoing serious retail therapy, I found a pair of flowered linen pants that I thought were quite fetching. I bought them, took them home, tried them on again and decided I looked like a walking sofa. Since then I have avoided anything that even vaguely resembled the dread sofa pants.

Last week at the Monday market I went through the pile of neatly folded pants at one of my favorite stalls and found a pair of flowered pants with a white background. Summer slip covers came to mind. But still fighting the sofa pants phobia, I passed them up.

Until last Monday. I found these beauties at the same stall and decided it was time to get beyond the distaste so, for $4 US I now own a pair of sofa pants. They will be for beach wear only. I can't imagine myself sporting these at home, but for here, they fit right in with the rest of the wild wardrobes. Actually I'm not really sure I'd want a sofa in that fabric, either. But for pants, it's perfect!

By the way, the gazpacho was fabulous.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

the new year so far

The first thing that happened on New Year's Eve was that the Sacramento NPR station couldn't get the opera. Some sort of "technical difficulties." I probably could have searched around for another station somewhere that was up and running but I decided that was too much trouble. So I broke with tradition and played dominoes instead. In the evening I was vaguely planning on going down to watch the bonfire although when I heard it wouldn't be lit until around 1:30 I knew I wouldn't make it, even though it was just down at the end of the block. Here's what it looked like in the afternoon (that you, Neighbor Nelson, for sending this photo).

I read my blog of last year's New Year's Eve festivities and it said there was much more noise, music, party-goers. It was all pretty quiet this year. Even Fernando said there weren't as many people in town for the New Year's Eve dance on the malecón this holiday, although the puestos were doing a brisk business on Sunday. Mostly day-trippers.

Monday's tianguis yielded these treasures.

Also a fabulous pair of sofa pants. I'll tell you about them tomorrow.

Meanwhile, it's gotten hot here; it was 90º yesterday with no breeze. We were expecting the same today, although so far it's quite lovely with a nice sea breeze. Preparing for the worst, I put together a big vat of gazpacho to keep the heat at bay. Lunch in an hour.