Monday, April 29, 2013

a welcome home greeting

This delightful little bouquet arrived on our doorstep Saturday afternoon as a "Welcome Home" gift from Alex, Andrew and Em.  Welcome home indeed, and it's mighty good to be here.  Even though I am surrounded by unopened boxes and bags, I can't find anything (our tenants rearranged my entire household!), and I wake at 5 AM thinking I have to get in the car and press on down the road, I am glad that long trip is over.  Now it's like being on a treasure hunt; where in the world will I find the clay bowl that sat on the counter to hold onions and garlic?  Where might my good sewing shears be hiding?  How about the pots and pans?  Those drawers were empty.  Oh well, all in good time.

It's always a pleasure to come home at this time of year, too.  When we leave in December the trees are bare, the gardens are all dead, no color.  Now, spring is springing all over town.  Trees have leafed out in the most deliciously delicate green shade, flowers are full of buds just waiting to burst open, there are still a few blossoms left on our wisteria ~ Tim did a masterful job of pruning and shaping the vines.  The coreopsis, that pesky, invasive flower, is miraculously under control right now but in another month it will be blooming all over the garden and dropping it's insistent seeds everywhere.  We tried growing it in our Mexican garden and that's probably the only place on the planet it doesn't like.  My neighbor's rose garden is gorgeous, in full bloom.   She brought this beautiful bunch to us on Saturday.

Please note the jar of peanut butter in the lower left of the photo.  Mr. C's first supermarket purchase upon his return.

The weather here in the valley is warm and sunny with a bit of a breeze breezy.  Funny, the weather's the same as at the beach but I can't hear the surf.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

from Newport Beach, CA

We'll be here tonight and then on home tomorrow morning.  A quick drive from lovely Gila Bend to Yuma where we stopped for our annual visit to Denny's for breakfast and our first tank of US gas, then on to San Diego and up the coast to the Extended Stay hotel at the John Wayne airport.  This is the Ritz Carlton of the Extended Stay chain and we're always happy to be here.  Big room, big bathroom, big fridge.  We took our first trip to the local Trader Joe's and got some of the Tomato Red Pepper soup we like so much and heated it up for dinner.  Watched the news ~ nothing much has changed since we left in December ~ and now it's time to go to bed.  One more early morning, one more long day on the road and we'll be home.  The whole trip has been blessedly easy and safe, just the way we like it.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

from Gila Bend, AZ

This was the view from our room in San Carlos yesterday.

This is the view from our room tonite, in Gila Bend.

We have stayed in the same hotel in San Carlos for many years and, sadly, have watched it deteriorate year by year.  This time the towels were just about see-through, the light bulb in the one lamp in the room blew out and we were left fumbling around in the dim light shed by a 25 watt ceiling light.  When I turned on the ceiling light in the kitchen area it started leaking water so we stopped usiing it.  But the view is unbeatable and it is the last night of listening to sea sounds.

We had another absolutely perfect day on the road.  We got away from San Carlos at 5:45 AM, zipped through Hermosillo quickly, reached the border about 11 AM, breezed right through border control, and got here . . .

by 3:30 PM.  Lots to working lamps, thick and thirsty towels, little 'fridge to keep food and wine cold.  Mr. C has gone off to get our dinner; Burger King chicken salad for me, Mac fishburger for him.  And tomorrow it's on to Newport Beach for a shopping trip to Trader Joe's and an overnight before heading home on Friday.

All thanks to Mr. C for a safe piloting of Vincent and all our worldly goods over 1300 miles.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

from San Carlos

It was foggy down to the ground when we woke up this morning.  Mr. C made the very wise executive decision that we would therefore loiter around Zar's, have breakfast in their cafe, and wait awhile before heading out.  This hotel, although very convenient and certainly stay-able, will probably be termed "shabby" within the next few years.  Very shoddy construction but it does have an intriguing "beam me up, Scotty" shower that you can almost turn around in.

Packed up and got underway at 8:30.  Another utterly unremarkable drive even though we went through four military check points.  We only fit the profile of "returning gringos" so they are not interested in speaking to us.  We are now waiting for our room to be prepared here at the Fiesta Real in San Carlos.  I counted up our visits here; 15 times, beginning in the spring return trip of 2002.   Lordy, these people have watched us grow old!  We'll spend the afternoon out on our little balcony, watching the beautiful bay, reading and drinking beer.  Tomorrow we'll be up and out early and hope to reach the border by 10:30.  There has been remarkably little traffic the entire way.  The streets of San  Carlos are almost deserted whereas it's usually bustling place.  Perhaps the rumors of the drastic fall in tourism are true.

Today is Shakespeare's birthday.  He would be 449 years old.  Happy Birthday, Will.

Monday, April 22, 2013

from Los Mochis

Another blessedly uneventful drive to Los Mochis.  It's been a long day but we are tucked up in a very nice hotel ~ Zar's ~  a chain that has lots of hotels throughout Mexico.  Clean, roomy, very inexpensive.  Dinner somewhere, perhaps, or we'll dine "in" on the chicken we bought in Tepic along with our illegal greens (you can't bring fruits or veggies into the state of Sinaloa from anywhere else.  They have the California state of mind; everyone else's agriculture is tainted) and a nice bottle of that yummy New Zealand wine.  Next message will be from San Carlos.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

from Tepic

Quick and easy drive here.  Five and a half hours, but there's a one hour time change so it seems like only four.  Made one stop at our favorite upscale market to pick up some goodies for dinner, got to the hotel, got our usual room but this time at a very reduced price.  Perhaps it's because they checked our record and saw we'd been coming here for over 10 years, twice a year like clockwork.  We've stashed the food in the fridge, poured a cold beer and are ready to relax.

We got away an hour later than planned this morning but since it's Sunday the traffic wasn't too bad.  In addition, the road between Colima and Guadalajara has been widened so that almost an hour is shaved off of travel time.  Along the way we saw the jacaranda trees, still aglow with that eerie blue color.

Tomorrow morning early we will be off to Los Mochis.  If we can't find a hotel there we'll drive out to Topolobampo and stay at our usual only-motel-in-town spot.  We'll see.

adios, hasta luego

Saturday, April 20, 2013

best photo of the season

This is Neighbor Nelson and his long-suffering, incredibly good humored wife, Ms. NN.  Anyone who has ever had a partner of any status, size, age or gender will recognize her look.

the list of lasts

The last tiangues:   Monday was the last street market of the season.  This was usually an occasion when Marie and I stopped in at Las Jacarandas for an end-of-season treat of bean tacos and beer, rehashed the events of the past five months, and then took our last, leisurely stroll down the aisles.  This year it was just  a quick dash in to buy a couple of things and then home.

The last visit to Tecoman:  The bank, the phone company to change our internet service (we'll keep it running in order to avoid the 6-week wait next year, but reduced our service package to the cheapest possible), the repair shop to pick up our CD player that had a jammed tape eject (broken spring), to the Bodega for a few necessary items.  There is new supermarket going in right across the street from the Bodega, set to open soon.  So many choices!

The last house cleaning:  Tuesday was Chuy's last day to give the house it's thorough weekly cleaning.  If we're going to entertain, it's always Tuesday evening!  I am really going to miss this luxury. 

The last domino game:  played on Wednesday afternoon with Charlotte and Linda.  Char is clearing out of here on May 10 and, if she has her way, won't be back.  She has a house in Ajijic, a town near Guadalajara, and prefers it up there.  Better public transportation, closer to stores and shops.  We tried to convince her to come back down for awhile next season but at this point she's doubtful.  So the game really may be my last with her.

The last visit to the library:  Gloria returned from her two-week vacation over the Easter holiday and the library is again open for business.  I returned a pile of books borrowed earlier in the season and donated a new book and a whole stack of CD's and tapes.  We use our iPod and Bose music sysstem instead so it was time to week out our collection and pass them on.  It's a whole new "lending" category and, thanks to our new shelving, there's plenty of space for them.

The last evening at Dago's:  Dinner last night was, as usual, delicious.  I brought my shrimp home to pack and take on the road for nibbles along the way.  No opera today ~ more Wagner in the form of Siegfried.

And besides, we're going down to Fernando's at 1 o'clock for our last puesto comida.  Jack is joining us for lunch, an almost unheard of outing for him, but I persuaded him to kick up his heels and do something daring!  Fernando is cooking robalo al vapor, a concoction of a sweet, succulent fish steamed with potato slices, onions, tomatoes, red peppers, garlic and cilantro.  So delicious.

Tonight will be our last night for Mr. C's absolutely perfect Margaritas.  He makes them in the liquadora and they are sweet and tart and laced with just enough tequila so you know you've had some.  I think we've only buzzed up two or three the entire season.  He's gotten on to drinking what we call a Bloody Guadalupe ~ tequila and Clamato juice.  I stick to white wine.

It's our last night of ocean song, to sleep with the soothing sounds of the surf.  The next time will be in San Carlos on Tuesday and that's really the gentle lapping of the tide in a bay.   Then it's on to Gila Bend, AZ, Irvine, CA and home by Friday.  No sea sounds until next season.

Tomorrow morning will be the usual frenzied last-minute preparations although I think most everything is either packed or ready to be packed.  Mr. C got up at 3 AM this morning and, among other things, baked a minced meat pie so at least he's gotten that out of the way!  What's left is to rearrange the cargo hold in the van, stuff a few more things into the various nooks and crannies, pile on the suitcases and we'll be gone.

This has been a very bittersweet season for me.  I have missed Marie every day.  Nothing is quite as much fun without her.  I certainly haven't laughed as much or talked as much.  The former is not a good thing; the latter perhaps.

On that note I want to leave you with this photo, a propos of absolutely nothing except to contrast these military police women with those we've seen in Boston over the past week (and by the way, well done everyone!).   Who do you think is responsible for the uniforms, down to the "combat" platforms?

Thursday, April 18, 2013

almost ready

While Sarah Brightman sings her heart out on the CD player and the cold wind blows through the house, we are closing up the hacienda for the season.  Yes, it's time to head back home again, a bit early this time but I think we're ready. 

Sofa pillows are all bagged up and ready to be moved into the bedroom for the duration.  Fernando is doing quite a bit of work in the living room so EVERYTHING has to be moved out.

Pictures are down, books all boxed up, chotskies all put away, photos tucked into drawers, clothes are packed or stowed for next year.  We have to have it all finished by Sunday morning and, if we keep up this pace, we'll make it.

Meanwhile, Mr. C has packed up the car with the various boxes holding our precious treasures.

We still have to get in our suitcases, the food box and the two coolers.  It's going to be a tight squeeze, but what else is new?  I am actually looking forward to coming down next year with one or two suitcases and perhaps a box of can't-do-withouts.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Boston, April 15, 2013

 What kind of madness propels such action?

Saturday, April 13, 2013

elias saves the day . . . again

When I got home from my lunch with Luly, Mr. C announced that all four toilets in the house ~ ALL FOUR ~ were plugged up.  We knew almost immediately what the trouble was; invasion of tree roots into the sewer pipes.  I duly phoned Fernando; he was out of town and wouldn't be back for several hours.  The person I really needed was Elias, the wizard plumber and electrician, but I didn't have his phone number nor did I know where he was currently working so I could go see him.  MaƱana Fernando would go get him.  That's all well and good but what about hoy?

Somehow we made it through the night; I'll leave out the details.  Early Friday morning Elias and Fernando showed up, ready with the solution.  First, Elias opened up the rejistro.  Everyone has one of these out in front of the house, on the street.  It is the house's connection to the sewage line installed by the city many years ago.  It can be accessed by removing the paving rocks and digging up the sand to expose the removable cement lid.

Then he had to excavate further to expose the underground PVC pipes the run from the back of the house under the garden walkways and out into the street where they join up with the city lines.  There was a whole lot of sledge hammering until he got the whole thing open.  Then he opened up the pipe and shoved a long, heavy wire with a hook on the end up into tube, snagged a massive clog of sand and roots, and pulled it out.

This is just part of what he removed.   It's densely compacted roots, sand and soil.  It had stopped any drainage.  You can see the wire hook lying across the blockage.

We have four giant Almendra trees in front of the house and their roots have invaded the entire area and compromised the sewer lines.   Elias also said that the conjunction of the pipes was not properly sealed so roots worked their way inside to get water.  This time he applied several coats of pegamente and (we hope) made the lines water tight.  When this happened a couple of years ago I asked Elias if we should have these lines cleaned every year just to keep them free of roots.  He assured me it wouldn't happen again because he had rerouted the pipes.  Alas.  Perhaps this should be part of the usual home maintenance we go through at the start of every season.

Friday, April 12, 2013

if I had a restaurant . . .

first thing I'd do is have my head examined but then I'd post this sign.

I was treated to lunch yesterday by my friend Luly who is leaving our little village to begin a new life in Coronado as a blushing bride.  I will miss her!  She used to hostess the annual Christmas Eve dinner that we all looked forward to.  I wish her all the best as she steps into a new role in a new place.  I grew up in Coronado so I know what she's in for; perfect weather, gorgeous vistas and sunsets . . . sort of like here!

Dago's tonight if Mr. C is feeling up to it.  He finishes his anti-amoeba meds today at noon and everyone says he'll feel a lot better when he stops the pills.  I surely hope so because this medication has made him sicker than ever.  He'll have some more tests when we get home to see that whatever it was that ailed him is indeed over.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

among the birthday wishes

Many wonderful birthday wishes from friends and family, and I am thankful for them all.  But I must say, this one topped the list.  From the Granddogs, Huck (front and IN CHARGE, as usual) and Zeke (rear).

Big, wet, smiling kisses.  Photo was taken in Cait's little yellow VW bug with the following comment:

"I loaded up the dogs in the Beetle and took them to the Dog Park for "Susan's Birthday Celebration!"  You know how I barely allow PEOPLE in the Beetle…now imagine how I felt with a back seat full of dogs!"

Thanks, boys!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

table for four

We had a lovely little dinner party last evening with two of our favorite gents, Mac and Juan.  We started with a festive bottle of prosecco followed by linguini with roasted tomatoes, garlic and shrimp, then a yummy salad and, for dessert, Mr. C's home-made almost-too-chocolate ice cream.  This was all washed down with my new favorite white wine,  Kim Crawford's Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand, carted down from the US.  Lots of laughter, lots of good conversation.

The table

The dinner

The guests

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

the penultimate tinagues

Yesterday's tiangues was a bittersweet trip.  Only one morre ~ next Monday ~ and we're gone.  I'll miss this Monday morning ritual, strolling down one side, visiting the usual vendors for the week's fruits and veggies, meeting and greeting, occasionally finding a seldom-seen treat such as eggplants or blackberries.  Then hauling it all home, giving it "the bath" with Microdine.  This gorgeous chard was on prominent display yesterday.

I know the stems look tough and woody but they were just as tender and sweet as ever.  The bunch was so big it had to be divided and dealt with in two parts.  I called Jack to ask if he would like a donation; he saw it, too, and bought a bunch.  I guess we'll be eating chard for a few nights running but that's just fine with me.

I'll surely miss my weekly trip to Armeria but here's another thing I am leaving behind and will be eager to see again as soon as possible.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

spring in montana

From Cait and Mike

Today would have been my mother's 98th birthday.  Happy Birthday, Virginia. 

In celebration we had another perfectly cooked piece of pargo at Fernando's puesto.  Only one more Sunday feast before we head home. Hard to believe that almost five months have passed since we turned off Mex 15 into this place.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

mr. c's harvest

Remember the tomato plants, how there were all leaf and no fruit?  Well, given enough time, water, sun, and tending they have finally started to bear fruit.

Little green pearls

We'll be back in the US before these things get ripe but Jack will have a feast!  Except for these.

We're having a little dinner party on Tuesday evening and plan to harvest these beauties to add to the meal.  All of these fruits came off of one plant, the one that now tops 9'!

No opera today.  It's Wagner's Das Rheingold and not being a fan I'll pass and spend the time packing up all my stuff to take home.   We've decided we will fly down next year so anything sizable that we want to keep has to go back this year.  Vincent the Van is going to be jammed full.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Easter at the beach

It's been busy down at the puestos over the weekend.  On Sunday we went to Fernando's for our usual comida and his beach front area was packed.  The tides have been particularly high, too, so the umbrellas, tables and chairs have been hauled up away from the encroaching waters.  Half way through lunch these chaps appeared to serenade the holiday-makers.

Soon the mango man strolled by, carrying his tray of large fruits, cut to resemble pineapples and impaled on sticks.  Along with the sweet and juicy fruit he offers limes to squeeze over them and a shaker of tajine, a chili powder and salt mixture.  You can see that the fruit the girl is eating is sort of brown; it's covered with chili powder.

Watching over all of this was a group of salvavidas, the lifeguards who, on a good day, probably make three or four rescues.  Inexperienced swimmers dash into the surf after downing four or five beers, get caught in the ever-present rip, and then the trouble begins.  I think there were a total of five fatalities in a three-day period.  I'm a good, strong swimmer but I never swim at this beach.   Even with these very cute guys keeping watch.

All the 50-something Mexican men around here were once lifeguards; Dago, Fernando, Juan, Chuy.  Then they aged and opened puestos.  Once a beach rat, always a beach rat.  I should know.