Saturday, December 23, 2017

progress report

As I mentioned earlier, we are having some repairs done on the house, namely the garage doors and all the screens and screen doors in the house.  So while I sit here humming along to La Nozze de Figaro I thought I'd let you know how things are progressing


True to its (only somewhat deserved) reputation as a manaa˜a society, the door folks never showed on Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday.  Fernando made an inquiry and we said that, no, nothing.  So he consulted with his friend Enrique (a carpenter) who told Fernando he knew just the folks who could do this.  So yesterday in the late afternoon a crew of four showed up with all kinds of heavy-duty tools (and a dog, of course), got right to work, drilled, hammered, welded, etc., and within an hour had the whole job done, where packed up and gone.  Cost:  800 pesos ($40).  The doors now close perfectly, swing on gins once more bolted firmly into the walls.  It should last for another 30 years!


They were to come Thursday afternoon to start on the 2nd floor, and finish up by tomorrow.  Today is  Saturday.  Nothing yet. See above for manaña comment.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

s-t-r-e-t-c-h-i-n-g the budget

It never ceases to amaze me how far our US dollars go here.  So far the only thing we need on a regular basis, gasoline, is the only thing that costs more here than it does at home.   Food, utilities, transportation, taxes, services and equipment all are incredibly cheap.  A sweep through the tiangues rarely sets us back more than $10 for a week's worth of fruits and veggies (exchange rate is now almost 2 to 1).  Last week I bought 7 gallon-sized lantana plants for the garden;  $7 US.  We are having all the screens and screen frames replaced this year; rust never sleeps.  We have 4 screened sliders, 2 hinged screen doors and 29 windows on three floors.  This entire undertaking, including labor, is going to cost about $1100 US.  This crew, located in Tecoman, comes highly recommended, has done work in several houses in town, and is known for leaving no debris behind.  And that can be a construction issue, believe me.  They are due to start the work on the 2nd floor on Friday and have said they will finish on Sunday.  Imagine, working on the weekend without any overtime charges!  I will have to relocate to listen to the Met's presentation of "The Magic Flute" on Saturday but that hardly matters.

Today we are getting an estimate on the repair of our big garage doors.  One of them came loose from it's bolts and the door almost fell over.  We went to the same shop that rehung our front door last year and the owner will be here at 5 today to check out what the solution might be.  I don't want to give up the doors we have; they are heavy enough to withstand the winds that we get here in the summer and besides, I like the way they look. My guess is it will be about $200 for the job.  We'll see.

Meanwhile, the first domino game of the season was yesterday and it was great to be back around the table with beach friends.  A few more souls will show up as the time passes.  It's always great fun when we have 2 or 3 tables and then have time after for good talk and a margarita!

One short comment on current reading:  "In Sunlight and in Shadow" by Mark Helprin is my own personal Book of the Year.  It is long, exquisitely paced, complicated, straightforward, filled with breathtaking descriptions, and I did not want it to end, even after 29 hours of listening.  His latest, "Paris in the Present Tense" is not yet available to me through the LOC program, but as soon as it is I will drop EVERYTHING and get into it.  It is receiving rave reviews.

Sunday, December 17, 2017


If you have ever had your computer programs play catch-me-if-you-can, then you know what this picture shows.  Ever since we got down here I have had nothing but trouble on the Air® getting emails, sending messages, etc.  The iPod® works fine; it's the laptop that's been the problem.  So this morning I decided I'd had enough and set out to figure out what in blazes is going on here.  After a couple of hours of clicking, erasing, testing and digging into the brain of both this laptop and the mail program, I think it's going to work.  I have no idea why it all went wonky to start and I don't really know why it has stopped, but it seems to have.  After I got everything taken care of a host of messages I sent out weeks ago went flying out into the ether and a bunch more that had been hovering outside the house came flooding in.  So I guess that means it's fixed.

Now I can get back to reading my email and posting my life right here.  Nothing of note to mention except that the domino group is slowly trickling back into town so our games will start next week.  And Blanche and Bob arrived, bringing with them our boxes of goodies which they picked up at our house on their way here from B.C.  We have our brown sugar, our pumpkin biscotti from TJ's, and our new coffee pot, along with other various and sundry necessities.  In another few days even more folks will be here and the 2017-18 season will officially begin!  I'll do my best to bring you along.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

a night at the Plaza

We are just back home from a night spent in Tecomán at the Hotel Plaza, a very attractive place known mostly for its buffet breakfasts.  This was not romantic little get-away but instead the means to an end.  Here's the story.

THE PROBLEM:  A week ago Thursday we showed up at the Nissan dealership in Tecománat 10 AM for car service for which we had made an appointment.  We had planned to go to breakfast at the Plaza while waiting. To our chagrin, there were 14 cars ahead of us and we would not have gotten to the front of the line until late in the afternoon.  Se we said, "No gracias" and made a new appointment for 8:15 AM today.  We were told it would take about 4 hours for the complete service.  New car, need to check everything, etc.  Ok, now what?  Here's an idea:  let's stay overnight in a hotel and show up at the dealership at 7:30 at wait until it opens.  Then we can go back to the hotel, have a leisurely breakfast and hang out in the room until check-out time at noon.  I made a reservation at the Hotel Plaza for one night.   Done!  Problem solved.

THE SOLUTION:  The hotel is on a lateral road off the main drag in Tecomán.  It has lovely, lush grounds, very well-maintained buildings, is sparkling clean, quiet, very inexpensive ($37.50 for our room).  It has a nice swimming pool area with lots of chairs and tables and shade, plenty of paved parking.  The rooms are very basic but clean and comfortable.  TV, air conditioning, WiFi, etc.  We decided to go to dinner at a place called Torito Pillin (Rascally Little Bull) but alas, for some unknown reason it was closed.  There was another place we looked for but couldn't locate, so we went to a seafood restaurant we had seen over the years but never tried.  (AUTHOR'S NOTE:  Ms. Neighbor Nelson, if you are reading this, it's the place where you get the fish soup.  We did NOT order it.  Enough said.)  Food was good, location is a bit noisy.  After returning to the hotel we went over to the restaurant/bar for a drink to cap off the evening. It was 6:45 and the place was deserted.  First we asked about a glass of wine.  Yes, they had wine, Padre Kino brand.  Padre Kino can be used to remove stains from carpeting or dissolve fingernail polish, so so it is rumored, so we demurred.  Ok, now about a margarita?  After all, this is Mexico.  Pretty soon a waiter came to the table and said they couldn't make a margarita.  This is not good news in a bar in a nice hotel in Mexico.  But the beer was icy cold land very refreshing and so we capped a nice evening with a nice bottle of Victoria.  Back in the room, I discovered there was something amiss with the top sheet on the bed.  It was way too short.  Thorough inspection showed it was a double sheet laid sideways on a king sized bed.  Once we sorted it all out by untucking it from the mattress at the bottom, we were ready for a good night's sleep.  And we got one.  This morning we left the hotel at 7:15 and pulled up to the service entrance at 7:30.  The doors went up about 7:45 and we pulled in, first in line.  The very delightful service manager, Pable, greeted us by 8:10, prepared all the paperwork, inspected the car, shook our heads several times, put us into a courtesy car driven by Juan and we were back at the hotel by 8:30.  He said the car would be ready by noon.  Breakfast was excellent, although no longer a buffet but the menu is extensive, the service excellent, even the coffee, frequently Nescafe, was brewed and very strong and flavorful.

view out of the dining room
view into the dining room from across the pond
We went back to the room and read for a couple of hours, then Mr. C walked over to the car dealer to check the progress.  I stayed behind to guard the goods.  Navigating the streets in this part of Tecomán is tricky.  There are NO crossings for pedestrians along this route for many blocks.  If you want to get to the other side you just have to hope there's a break in traffic both ways and make a mad dash.  Fortunately it all worked out  The car was ready, he was back at the hotel by noon and we were home by 12:45 in time to catch the Met's first radio production of the new season, Verdi's "Requjium".

We have to do this all over again the end of January in order to keep the warranty on the car alive and well.  It has to be serviced twice a year.  Although we can certainly show up at 7:30 from home, then what to we do?  We will probably do the hotel routine again.  But I'll know to bring my own pre-mixed margaritas, my own reading lamp (what do hotels have against reading lamps?  That's always been a mystery to me.), and my own bath mat ~floor was very slippery.

Next up is to find the aluminum/window screen guy so we can redo everything in the house.  Rust never sleeps.

Friday, November 24, 2017

cold shower weather

First sunset of the season

We have been here for 8 days and only got hooked up with our Internet service and phone TODAY.  Communications from the house have been out for about 6 weeks total.  We had a bit of service for a few hours last week, then nothing until Monday (with a promise to return Tuesday to deal with internet), but now everything is working fine ~ for the time being.  So I will take advantage of this connection for a post.

It has been a busy time; a trip to Colima to shop at Walmart, Home Depot, Sam's Club, and lunch at Kronos, of course.  Then three trips to Tecoman, the latest to make an appointment for the new car's service, buy bacon, cheese and good potatoes in the heart of the city, Mr. C's first "beach" haircut, and a stop at the Bodega for yet more supplies.  Monday was the first shopping at the tinges  our regular grocer was delighted to see us and he had some pretty good stuff.  We had comics at Fernando's presto  last Sunday and will go again this week.  Tonight being Friday we'll go to Dago's; didn't go last week as we feared the bugs, but it has actually been very bug-free for the time being. Thanksgiving was quiet and delicious.  We cooked a big chicken, had brought-from-home wild rice, cumin carrots, and one of Mr. C's stellar pumpkin pies and our own ice cream.  Very yummy.

The town has not changed one bit.  It is as seedy and rundown as ever.  But our house is looking pretty good.  The repairs to the collapsed ceiling were very well done.  He even fixed one of the cabinets and the cracked cement around the kitchen window.  So we are now ready for the hoards of prospective buyers to come in!  I am trying to be as positive as possible and concentrate on selling this wonderful place.  For about the last year I have thought that it would probably be a smart idea to have a hidey-hole in case of big trouble, and I still think that, but not here.Maybe in the mountains of Montana!

Books I recommend:  Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng; A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra; The Alphabet House by Jussi Adler-Olsen.  Now reading Before the Fall by Noah Hawley.  He is adapting it for the screen.   When I finish it I will go back to Berlin Diaries by William L. Shirer; Germany between 1934-41.  I've been working at it, little by little, for about a month; I need to take a break every so often.  It's very intense.  But excellent.

That's it for now.  I'll get back to taking pix and posting more often now that my lifeline has been restored.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Autumn's gift

Our little town is beginning to have a nice Autumn feel.  The days are sunny and cool, the nights are clear and cold.  The trees are starting to turn, especially the ginkgoes, Chinese pistaches and liquid ambers, all of which are plentiful in our neighborhood.  This beauty is around the corner and you can see it a block away. I'm leaving on Tuesday so I have to get my fill of all this gorgeous color NOW!  The temperature here was 65º today; in Cuyutlán it was 87º.  I would really like to have another few weeks here to enjoy the cooler days, sit in front of a few fires, eat those yummy cold weather dinners.  But alas, it is not to be.  So palm trees, grilled fish and avocados every day, here we come!

Friday, November 10, 2017

72 hors in the town that never sleeps

Remember the rumor that I was going for a quick visit to New York City?  It was true.  I did go, I had a fabulous time visiting with family and getting somewhat reacquainted with that big, loud, bright, brash city.  I flew from Sacramento to Atlanta, had a SEVEN HOUR delay due to high winds at JFK, and finally dragged into the hotel at 12:30 AM.  Cait was already tucked in so I went directly to bed for what was left of the night.  We stayed on the lower West Side at the Hudson Hotel.  Very funky, perfect location.  It has a very interesting history. Big rooms, big bathrooms, no storage, very dark.  But since it's only for sleeping, who cares!

Wednesday was MOMA day.  Niece Kaley took the train to Grand Central from West Haven, Ct. and g; daughter Emily took the subway down to Columbus Circle from 110th Street and we all gathered in our room before hitting the streets to walk to the museum, about 8 New York City blocks away.  I especially wanted to see this show.

The exhibition considers the many relationships between fashion and functionality, culture, aesthetics, politics, labor, identity, economy, and technology and includes things like Levis 501"s, the hoodie, down jackets, the Little Black Dress, the ubiquitous pearl necklace, the sweat shirt, the white T-shirt, black and white lace up basketball sneaks, plus some utterly outrageous shoes, one pair of which actually belonged to Elton John. Loved the display of the "shift" dress, popularized by Jackie Kennedy and now a staple of many (MY) wardrobes.

shift dresses, all different fabrics but the same basic cut.

In lieu of a little black dress, how about this gorgeous tux by Yves St. Laurent?

Then is was on to the Contemporary galleries.  A Matisse or two, a Rousseau or two, a Van Gogh or two.

Then it was on to see Louise Bourgoise's drawings and sculpture and experience her strange preoccupation with spiders.  This huge installation was kinda creepy.

We sent to the museum's 5th floor light filled cafe for a long lunch, shared all the family news we could think of, and generally had a great reunion.  Cait and Em had not seen Kaley for about 8 years so there was lots of catch-up to take care of.  Then we walked back to the hotel and got ready for the theatre.  We taxi'd down to 45th, had a great group hug and bid Kaley farewell as she had to get back home.  The three of us found a good little French bistro for dinner and then walked over to the theatre to see "Come From Away".   City.  Funny, smart, sad, uplifting ~ everything you want from an evening at the theatre.

Set in Gander, Newfoundland on September 11, 2001, it's the story of how the town of 7,000 takes in and cares for the approximately 7,000 travelers stranded when all air space is closed after the attack on New York.  It seems odd to have a "musical" based on 9/11 but it works wonderfully.

So that was Wednesday.  Now let's move on to Thursday.  It was cold and a bit blustery but we decided to "do" Central Park, especially to search out the Ai Weiwei sculptures that are  throughout the park and the entire city.  We walked over to the east side of the park and entered right at his huge golden cage.

The colors were just beginning to change

We walked for about three hours, admiring the colors, the leaves, the beauty of this amazing oasis in the middle of a very busy, crowded city.  Even though it was a week day, lots of kids, dogs, strollers, sitters.  I think Cait's FitBit recorded that we walked 8 miles.  Then we headed toward someplace to eat, catching sight of this on the way.

The first time I was in New York, in 1975, I rode in one of these carriages just because you must do it at least once!  After a late lunch (to avoid the dinner rush we went back to the hotel, rested a bit, then got ready for another night of fine theatre.  This time it was "Beautiful:  The Carole King Story".

Fabulous performances, wonderful ~ and very familiar ~ music, great seats.  We couldn't get a cab when new got out so we walked home ~ 15 blocks up 6th Avenue.  You would have thought it was 2 o'clock in the afternoon!  The sidewalks were packed with people, Times Square blazing with enough neon to light Belgium for a month.  Back at the hotel we lounged in the bar for a post-peerformance drink while rehashing our day and making plans for Friday.

This was the day for the 9/11 Memorial.  It was sunny and bright, perfect weather to be outside and sightseeing.  We took the subway down to Fulton Avenue and walked over to the museum and memorial pools.  This is a profoundly beautiful place; simple, solemn, quiet, but alive with the sound of falling water.  I was overwhelmed by the enormity of the spaces and the fountain footprints.  The enormity of what happened, the thousands of lives lost, the destruction in the city is there in stark display.

Friday, October 27 was the birthday of Brendan Clark.  The 9/11 Committee puts a white rose at the name of the dead on the day of their birthdays.  It's amazing to look around the edges and see the scattering of white flowers in commemoroation.
I particularly liked this sign.

We did not get into the museum; I had not bought tickets in advance and the lines to get in were around the block.  But in truth I had had enough and needed to take a walk and think about what I had just seen.  We stopped at a great little (actual) hole in the wall for a delicious lunch, did some more walking and then got back on the subway to the hotel to get ready for dinner with Em and Sam and to get our bags packed for an early departure.

We went to the Landmarc Restaurant in the Time Warner building just at the end of our block.  Great table by the window overlooking Columbus Circle and the busy Friday night in the city.  Delicious dinner of mussels in a creamy garlic-y broth, glass of luscious Sancerre, good talk, good company.  Sam is getting ready to go off to Paris for 4 months as part of his Columbia University architecture program.  Em is busy with coding school.  They live up in Harlem with Toni the Dog.  They are happy, busy, eager, and young!

Saturday morning we were out of the hotel at 7, through check-in and security and having coffee by 8:30.  Our flights left at about the same time, me to Seattle/Sacramento, she to Minneapolis/Bozeman.        It's always good to get home and back in one's own bed, but that was one heck of a fine trip.  Now we're all trying to figure out if we can regroup in Paris while Sam's there!

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR:  I didn't post while in situ because I didn't take the Air® with me. But as of next Tuesday I will be on the road again, this time to the house in Mexico.  I will post from there!

HAPY BIRTHDAY to dear MSMASSF over at No More Commas Period.  You DO read this, don't you?

Thursday, October 19, 2017

a feel-good, 2-tissue treat

This movie is one of those come-from-behind sagas that I really love.  These girls come from so far behind that you can't even see where it starts, but they beat every odd imaginable and emerge triumphant.  Loved it.  And their dancing is contagious; it was all I could do to stay in my chair!

Cooler here, maybe even some rain tonight.  We need it to wash away the dust of summer in the valley.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

a wink and a smile

This post is not about Harvey Weinstein.

Instead, it's about this pillow I finally found.

Several months ago I saw a photo of this pillow in a magazine without any information about where it came from, etc.  I contacted the editor but heard nothing.  A bit later I saw it again and tried once more to identify it.  I even went on Google and typed in "wink pillow".  Try it; you'll be amazed at what comes up.  But then a couple of weeks ago I saw it yet again, this time on an photo in Instagram.  I tapped on the picture and all the resource names came up.  It's from Urban Outfitters and it's now mine!

Monday, October 9, 2017

a big wind in the valley

While Napa burns, the wind is whipping things up here in the valley, too.  It's been blowing for a couple of days, and while we've missed the close peril of fire, it has made a mess of everything else.  Our pool resembles one seen in Gothic horror movies; dark and covered in rotting leaves and twigs.  Not only is our own birch tree dumping its trash, but our neighbor's huge crepe myrtles are, too.  "Fall" is named that for a good reason.

I finally got around to watched "Fences" a couple of days ago. I couldn't watch it all in one sitting; a whole lot of anger flying off the screen.  I don't know how a cast could summon so much energy night after night for the stage play.  Viola Davis was superb as Rose and her Academy Award was well earned.  The contrast between Troy and his friend Bono was beautifully portrayed.  I guess I liked it, but not to the point of raving.

Today I will wrap up reading James Gould Cozzen's "By Love Possessed."  I read it probably 40 years ago and, after revisiting it now, realize I had no idea what it was about.  Either that or I've just forgotten most everything.  Here's one thing about Cozzens; he knows and uses (correctly) more obscure words than any novelist I've ever read.  This novel is a (long) discourse on love; between families, friends, siblings, colleagues, married couples, youth and age.  He has a lot to say; it's dense and meticulous and I have enjoyed it immensely.  But to read it you have to commit to the long haul (it's 600 pages) and a good dictionary.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

dates from Jordan

These are not Jordanian dates from that Middle  Eastern kingdom.  They are, instead, from the date ranch of Jordan Nelson, one of the four famous J Boys (of Mexican beach fame).  Several years ago he bought land in Northern Mexico ~ I think quite close to the US border near San Diego ~ and planted many, many date palms.  I have watched the progress via his postings on Instagram.  These are from this year's harvest, maybe the first.  They are absolutely delicious.  A diabetic's dream food! I'm hoping he'll bring more down to the beach when he and his family come for their annual Christmas holiday.  If anyone reading this knows Jordan, pass the word!

Monday, October 2, 2017

Las Vegas

if you want wistful

I watched this on the Flix® yesterday afternoon out of curiosity and I'm glad I did.  Two pros do a lovely job with this light, sweet script.  Maybe a tear or two.  Funny, poignant, real.  Believe me, if he was my neighbor I would definitely ring his bell, if only to see his smile.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

a new hero

Aaron Falk is a federal police officer in Melbourne, Australia who travels 500 km back to his
 home town to attend the funeral of an old friend.  The man, Luke, was found shot, along with his wife and 8 year old son  Since Luke was not exactly a choir boy, and had had some troubles in the past, the consensus is that he was responsible.  Aaron and Luke's parents are not so sure.  Thus begins the investigation.  It's taut, smart, with interesting characters.  The past has a way of interfering with the present.  But wait!  There's more . . .

I can only hope that Ms. Harper has more Aaron Falk in mink.

Saturday, September 30, 2017


It's cooler up here in the valley (at last) and time to haul out the long pants and turtlenecks.  Not much color change yet; the Chinese pistache trees are dropping leaves but not because of any cold snap.  They're just tired of hanging on.  Some gardens have shows of chrysanthemums and asters, but most gardens have all been replanted to have mostly drought-tolerant grasses and succulents.  Remember the drought?

So now that I've managed to make small talk that completely ignores the fact that this blog has been silent for too long, let's move on.

Earlier in the month I went up to visit daughter Alex in Walla Walla.  The main reason for going was a big quilt show put on ever year.  It was gorgeous.  The talent and skill on display was amazing.  This was my favorite of the show.

My next favorite was a smaller piece, really for display not for use, except perhaps for an infant.  It was in a silent auction and, on the first day we went, I eyeballed it and decided to think about bidding.  On Sunday, the final day, I put in a bid and thought no more about it.  The staff said that winning bidders would be notified later in the day.  No call.  OK, well, I hoped (grudgingly) that the winning bidder would take good care of it.

I left on Monday and on Tuesday, Alex called me to say I had indeed won the quilt!  Now I have to figure out what to do with it except to gaze at it in wonder!

The theme of this year's show was "Paint the Town Red".  This was the winning piece.

On Saturday we joined a group for a train ride up the Walawa River.  Beautiful scenery, benefit for the Blue Mountain Land Trust.

The little engine that pulled us up the mountain.

The confluence of the two rivers, the Wallowa and Grande Rondein Oregon

The length of the train; we were near the end car on the way home.
After a lovely but all-too-short visit, it was back home, out of Seattle, where it's all about water, boats, trees, and coffee.

Next trip:  NEW YORK CITY in late October with daughter Cait.  We'll be seeing g'daughter Emily, niece Kaley (she'll train from New Haven for the day), two plays, a whole lotta other stuff including the 9/11 Memorial, the Statue of Liberty (must go wipe her tears), and Bloomingdale's basement.

Then it's off to the beach.  Gotta fix that ceiling!

Saturday, September 9, 2017

what's for dinner?

I have long been curious about the sous vide method of cooking.  How in the world could boiling food in a plastic bag for hours on end enhance the flavor of anything?  And is cooking something in plastic a good idea, health-wise?  (Actually, this really never occurred to me until my very health-conscious masseuse brought it up!)  But I wanted to try it anyway.  Gourmet Grandson had an "extra"(imagine!!) sous vide cooker gizmo which he gave me, so last night I tried it out.  First experiment a total success!

The dish was pot roast with vegetables (potatoes and carrots).  Instructions were to set the water temperature to 170º and let it simmer for 24 hours!  TWENTY-FOUR HOURS??  But I thought, "OK, that's what the instructions say so let's see what happens."  I put all the ingredients in a zip lock bag, did the immersion seal, clipped the bag to the edge of the pot and settled in for the wait.  (Just before it started I had to put in an emergency call to Andrew for help in setting the timer, an embarrassing question but he told me and I set the clock and it all worked just fine!)

Late yesterday afternoon the timer stopped and the bag came out.  What was so surprising was how strong the color of the carrots still was; I thought it would all turn to grey mush, but it all looked beautiful.  Then with a few finishing flourishes, it was ready.

Everything was so delicious!  The meat, not the most expensive cut in the butcher's shop, was just as tender, juicy, moist as if it was filet mignon.  Carrots perfectly done, a bit al dente just as I like them, the potatoes still firm and sweet.  It was worth the wait.

This sous vide thing is alright!  Next treat; chicken breasts.  AZ insists it's the only way to cook them if you want tender, juicy chicken.  I'll let you know.