Thursday, March 29, 2012

a "family" dinner

Last night we hosted a little dinner party for three friends to whom we are closely tied here at the beach. The guests included Carsten, one of the two original designers/builders/owners of our house; Jack, in whose casa grande across the street we stayed several times during our first 10 years of visiting this little village; and Marie, who is my daily domino partner and all-around great sandbox pal. The occasion for the get-together was Marie's departure back to states on Saturday. I am going to go into domino withdrawal and I don't think it's going to be any fun at all. I wonder if there's domino rehab anywhere close by? Carsten, Jack and Marie have all known one another for more than 35 years, from back when this place was really a sleepy little Mexican backwater, when there was no gringo colonia or much of a gringo presence at all.

The weather here has been cool and windy, especially in the evenings, so we had to move the big dining table, usually out on the terrazo, into the living room. Jim made a delicious lasagna with sausage and chard, I braised some carrots, and for dessert we swooned over Key Lime Sorbet. A couple of good California wines and we were off and chatting for several hours. The dollies kept an eye on us from their perch on the book shelf.

I festooned them with little lights for the occasion.

Saturday's opera: Donizetti's L'Elisir d'Amore with Diana Damrau and Juan Diego Flórez as the unlikely lovers. It should be a hit. As for reading, finished Under the Banner of Heaven and then moved on to something not quite so strange: another Gabriel Allon spy thriller by Daniel Silva. I should finish it today. I'm gradually working my way through all 8 titles of his series. Next will be A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Eagn, unless something else strikes my fancy.

Dominoes this afternoon with Charlotte if she's up to it. If not, the penultimate game with Marie.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

remember San Miguel?

I wrote on my report of our trip to San Miguel and Patzcuaro that I would post photos of the things we bought. Here they are.

From Dolores Hidalgo, gorgeous talavera pots, some for indoors, some for the garden. We had two big plants in the sala; a palm and some sort of a philodendron. Both had outgrown their pots. First on our list was new homes for those two.

This is what we chose for the palm. Here it is, all settled in.

This is the philo's new pot.

And here's the philo in it.

Both seem to be doing well after their initial transplant shock.

We also bought some small pots for the garden, mainly for our collection of geranium which, unfortunately, don't "summer over" here too well; too wet, too much humidity and salt in the air. But between December and May or June they thrive. But they have to be started in smaller pots first, so these are for next year's survivors.

When in Patzcuaro we took a drive over to Tzintzuntzan, home of many stonework yards. This is the little statue we bought for our garden. We like to think it's St. Francis who finally got away from those pesky birds for a brief respite from their incessant chatter and pestering. Since there were no birds sitting on his shoulder ~ and other St. Francis statues had such appendages but we didn't like them as well ~ we thought it might be Fr. Queroga, the first bishop of the area, but he was bald and our little chap has a nice head of wavy hair. So we don't know who he is but he seems content in our front garden.

Bless this house and all who live in it.

In Patzcuaro, fabric central for Mexico, I also bought some beautiful yardage for new drapes. The seamstress came this afternoon to talk about how I wanted them done. She had some really good ideas, took away the new fabric, the old drapes for measurements, and said she'd be back next Sunday with the finished product. Just in time, too. I washed the old ones to see if I could make them last one more season and they completely shredded. What with 10 years of salt, moisture, slapping against the screens, and being sprayed with rust from the ceiling fan, I guess they just gave out. We'll hang the new ones for a month, then put up the old pair for the summer and put up the new ones when we return for next season. Something to look forward to along with beer, margaritas and the daily avocado.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

remembrance of things past*

As I type this in my light-filled living room with the sound of the sea in the background, I am listening to Thomas Hampson anquish through the role of Macbeth in Verdi's opera of the same name. I didn't want to miss this one; I saw/heard Hampson in concert at the Mondavi Center a few years ago and have been a huge fan ever since. He's also being celebrated today for his 25 years of performances at the Met. Mr. C, meanwhile, is tending to a big bonfire in our next door lot, getting rid of the season's fallen palm fronds, various piles of leaves, cuttings and other garden debris. He decided the wind direction was right ~ to the east, away from the house ~ so lit up the pile. Can you imagine doing this at home? He'd be in San Quentin in a heartbeat!

But on to other things. Last night at Dago's (where I had shrimp and set aside half for today's "opera salad") I was taken to task by Neighbor Nelson for my non-appearance in this corner of cyberspace. Therefore, what follows is what I can recall of the frantic, crowded past two weeks.

Yes, Alex and Em did come for a week's visit. We went up to Tlaquepaque for the weekend where we tore around doing shopping, eating and generally celebrating Em's 18th birthday. We came home on Monday only to get ready for my second annual Let's Have Lunch for all my women friends in Cuyutlán, at least those who were here. Tables were very colorful, covered in a variety of oil cloth, bright plates, printed napkins. It's Mexico, after all!

It was a salad event with guests contributing their favorite salad additions. We had a fine spread with shrimp, chicken, black and white beans, a variety of veggies and dressings.

My foccacia turned out beautifully.

Mr. C contributed a luscious strawberry ice cream for dessert. Then we all sat around talking until the late afternoon. I needed a nap when it was over!

Alex and Em managed to get in some reading and relaxing time. Alex took a long walk on the beach and came home with a somewhat serious sunburn but I think managed to avoid blistering by slathering herself with aloe gel. By the time she went home she had just a nice tan. As you can see, the lovely Emily ~ the hit of the lunch party if reports from guests are to be believed ~ has inherited the New Yorker gene from her great-grandparents, grandparents and parents.

But every now and then she came up for air.

She is currently awaiting news from the various colleges to which she has applied. She should have news within the next 10 days or so and then will know where she might find herself come September.

While she was here Alex was contemplating a new job. Longtime readers of this edifying site may remember that when she was here last year she had just started a job as the Director of Development at CSU Dominguez Hills. In November she heard about a job at Whitman College in Walla Walla, WA. She decided to explore that possibility and lo and behold! She has been hired in their Development Office and will start June 4! She has found a charming little house to rent. Now it's just a matter of moving all her treasures 1080 miles while racing around getting Em ready for graduation on June 2. I am absolutely thrilled for her and it sounds like the job will offer her the chance to do exactly what she's most interested in! I'm planning to fly up to WW to lend a hand and give the International Mother's Seal of Approval. As if she needs it!

* Apologies to Proust

Thursday, March 8, 2012

a visit to Carmelita

I made a visit to the outrageous Carmelita this morning to get my bi-monthly haircut and to test my body's immune system. This delightful woman would be arrested in the US for the state of her salon, but she's such a good hair cutter that I just close my eyes to the mess and hope for the best. I wish I were brave enough to take photos of her and her establishment but my wiser instincts tell me it would not be a good thing. Perhaps of her only; that I can probably pull off.

I was the first client there this morning at 10:30. You don't make an appointment; you just show up. She was the only one in the shop; her sister, also a very good cutter who always uses a razor to "shave" my hair, was not in today. The floor was covered in the locks of yesterday's clients. There is no visible sterilization mechanism so the combs and brushes of the last clients are the same for me. So far I have not come down with anything.

Carmelita is a fashion statement that probably ought to be edited a bit but she has such fun with her clothes, hair color and style that she's a sight to behold. Today her hair was jet black, a change from the neon orange of my last visit. She was wearing v. tight jeans rolled up to just below the knee, a tiny yellow T-shirt and an even tinier black and yellow plaid bolero-type blouse, and the tallest platform sandals ~ black suede with yards of ankle-wrapping straps ~ I've seen outside the tiangues shoe tables. When she walks around she looks like a caracature of Bette Midler at her most wiggly. A few minutes into my cut the phone rang, and for the rest of the appointment she chatted happily while snipping and razoring my hair. But somehow it all comes out just the way I want it, all for 50 pesos ($4) plus a 20 peso tip. I'll do this one more time before I go home which means I won't have to shell out $50 US for a haircut until mid-July by which time things will be completely out of control and I will be unable to be seen in public.

Meanwhile, back home we're putting the finishing touches on the guest quarters. Daughter Alex and granddaughter Emily arrive tomorrow afternoon for a week's visit. Lots planned; a trip to Tlaquepaque and Tonala, dinner at Dago's, a lunch party to celebrate their visit. They'll be gone all too soon.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

tonight in my own bed!

It's a long drive from Patz to our front door; 380 miles but a solid 8 - 8 1/2 hours. There's a long, 2-lane stretch between Guadalajara and Colima that slows us down. That road has been worked on for the last 5 or 6 years to widen it in places and I think that before I leave the planet I may get to drive some of the new stretch!

We made a shopping stop at CostCo and Mega and got almost everything on the list. Couldn't find the French butter, though. Had to settle for Danish.

Garden looks wonderful; house, too. Photos of loot when we unpack it. Now, it's time for a little light liquid refreshment to celebrate another safe journey through this beautiful country.

Yes, that ought to do just fine!

Saturday, March 3, 2012

greetings from Mountain Goat Manor

We have been in Patzcuaro for the last week, in the mountains of Michoacan. We rented a delightful little casita attached to a large house. This compound is perched midway up a hill that only mountain goats should try to climb.

This is half-way up the hill,

this is half-way down.

The street is cobblestone, very slippery and uneven. There are no sidewalks. I'm not even tempted to try to negotiate this road, even though we're only a 5 minute walk into the center to town, to the Plaza Grande. But I'd stay in this casita again in a heartbeat.

The compound (which is for sale for a high 6-figures) was built by a 50-something woman from Michigan about 6 years ago. The main building is a 2-story house that is two complete apartments but she uses it for now as one dwelling.

This is a one-story, 2-bedroom casita in front of the house.

with its own little garden and patio

and lovely, shaded seating area.

Above the casita is a fabulous roof-top garden and gazebo,

with views across the city to the lake and mountains in one direction

and to the Basilica in another.

The owner has thought of everything for her guests' comfort. The main selling point? As many electrical outlets as you could possibly want! Most Mexican-built properties we've rented have one ~ two, if you're lucky ~ outlets per room. The furnishings are colorful and comfortable.

Unlike San Miguel, where every building is painted a different color and frequently two or three colors, Patzcuaro has strict rules about how your house must look on the exterior. All properties are painted an oxidized red from street level to 5' up, and white from there to the top of the wall. All rooftops are tile. All signage is exactly the same; first letter of every word is in red, rest in black. Font usage is the same throughout the town. Even big stores that have signature colors, such as the Bodega supermarket that is ALWAYS painted green, adheres to the red/white rule. Therefore, the real color explosions take place indoors, in the patios and rooms of a house or store or restaurant. Even the "For Sale" sign for this house, which is painted right on the outside wall, is in the black/red motif.

There are NO neon signs, billboards, or other commercial advertisements. All notices of a business are painted on the wall or over the door. I don't know how she gets away with the large banner hanging from the second-floor balcony announcing the sale of her house! The Paint Police probably haven't spotted it yet.

I've done lots of shopping for fabrics for new drapes for the house. We went to Tzintzuntzan to the stoneworks and found a lovely St. Francis statue to add to our garden. We've been looking for one for several years and finally found just the right size. Photos, of course, when we get him installed. Right now he's nestled in among all the Talavera pots we bought in San Miguel during our marathon 3-day shop-n-eat spree. Photos of those, too.

Today we had a last comida at Lupita's, really the best restaurant in town. It's located just across the street from the Basilica in an old hacienda that is filled with color

and light and art and absolutely sensational food.

Lupita used to be the chef at the Hotel Gran on the Plaza Chica where hungry diners would flock to sample her menu. But when she got the chance to have her own place, she left and brought the faithful with her. We went twice. First time I had Tampiqueña that was so tender and juicy I could cut it with a fork. Today I ordered Camerones al ojo. Now you have read that I think Dago does the best shrimp anywhere. This was awfully close. Mr. C had Dedos de Pescado, fish fingers with French fries or Fish and Chips. The first time he had soup and Cheese Enchiladas. We both were delighted by our choices. It's first on our list for our next visit. We also found a great chicken rotisserie joint at the end of our street. Bought one today to take home for dinner tomorrow night when we arrive back at the beach.

Yes, this little sojourn is over and we head home tomorrow morning. But we've already made our reservation for next year, March 17-24, 2013. We're (sort of) hoping she doesn't sell before then!