Friday, February 29, 2008

back in my own bed

My back is killing me, I can't find anything, we are still without some windows (bathroom, kitchen) but I'm going to sleep in my own bed tonight. We carried back most of the stuff we had taken to Jack's three weeks ago. I manage to root out sheets, pillow cases and towels. Then I put a bottle of white in the fridge for this evening's enjoyment and the Patient reconnected the computer (first things first!). As for dinner, who knows. It's great to be home.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

the good recyclers

Before we pulled up the downstairs tile floor, Neighbor Nelson said he would like to have them for his upstairs patio. I said sure, and so he came over and carted away about 350 tiles. Previous to this he had a brick surface which was beginning to look a bit worn. The new tiles are cement and, when all laid down, look quite handsome. Mrs. Neighbor Nelson thought so too. In fact, they look much better on his floor than on mine. Recycle! It's good for the soul!

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

a vignette starring Jaime

If you've been keeping up you are (more than) aware of the tile shortage problems. One day last week I was in the kitchen talking to Everado (the tile man) about the ceramic tiles that were to go behind the faucets in the kitchen as a back-splash. While we were chatting Jaime was fiddling idly with some tiles lying loose on the new worktop. The idea was that the back-splash was to be all yellow, to match the counter-top sink surround. The problem, señora, is that we are getting short of yellow tiles and since you want the walls around the stove all yellow, that might be a problem, even though you bought another box. Or something like that. So I said well ok and you figure it out. I said that a lot.

I returned to the house in the afternoon and went up to the kitchen. Jaime was standing in front of the sink, and he's a sizable chap and hard to see around. As I was talking to Everado, Jaime gradually moved away from the sink to reveal his solution and handiwork, keeping his eye on me the entire time. When I saw it I gave him a big smile of delight, and he smiled back, also delighted but I think also relieved that I liked what he had done.

This is a photo of the back wall of the kitchen with the plaque of San Pasquale Bailón in the center. He's the saint of kitchens and cooks. In the lower left on the wall you can see one of my "food" tiles, a green pepper. I also have a garlic stem and a carrot. On the new table there is a watermelon slice, a tomato and a strawberry.

Everything is ready for moving back except the windows. Tomorrow I will make yet another appeal to Raul to get that done. I'm not very polished at arguing in Spanish. I just do what the Mexicans do: roll my eyes and mutter "Ay, carrumba!"

Monday, February 25, 2008

el plomero does his thing

I knew about the missing parts for the new sink in the kitchen. What I didn't know about was the defective faucets I bought. Just as I was leaving this morning to go to Tecoman to get the collar and baskets for the sink the plumber came bustling down the street to tell me that he was unable to keep the faucet from leaking because the hot water handle was defective. He had taken it apart and found that something was roto, broken. The unit had been cemented into place so he had to chisel away the cement anchor, unhook the whole apparatus, clean off the goma, glue, dry out the nozzle and make it look new again. Which he did. Off I went with now two problems to solve.

It was far easier than I thought it would be. The woman who helped me could not have been nicer and more patient. She was not surprised that there were missing parts. I guess this is a way of business; don't take the product with the missing parts off the shelf. Just take what you need out of the next box and let the buyer of that product come back for a missing replacement. I got the missing collar and canasta, no problem. As for the leaky faucet, that took a bit more explanation. I couldn't remember the word for "leak" (agujero) so I just said agua sale (water goes out) and she got the message. I told her the plumber had taken the hot water handle apart and found a broken part. No problem. She sent someone back into the stacks and he came back with a new unit. Oh yes, here's another shopping anomaly. There are no aisles for you to stroll up and down in a hardware store. You go to the counter and ask for what you want and the person you speak to sends another worker into the back to find it. Sometimes it is actually what you want. Sometimes you have to start over with more words, gestures, nimble linguistics until you get a smile of comprehension on their faces. It's always a challenge but one of the most delightful chores one has to do. I realize that I know more words about construction than I do about anything else.

By five o'clock this evening, the new sink was up and running, the faucets were just fine, and the two new toilet seats I found had been installed and ready for use. All of the above, plus a successful tiagues (good selection of avocados, beautiful berries, nice Italian parsley and cilantro for chimi churri, recipe to follow) made this a very good day.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

an end and a beginning

This is Jaime and his equipo who worked on the house over the past two-plus weeks. Jaime is in the top row, center. I took this yesterday, the last day of official work. There are a few details that have to be finished up this coming week but for all intents they are done. We are shooting for Wednesday as the move-back day, providing we get the sliding doors in the living room installed. This whole experience has been relatively painless; this crew knows its business. There is the maestro de azulejos, the electricista who put in the two new outlets, one in the kitchen and one on the 3rd floor (he's the one who looks 14); the plomero who redid the drains and toilets and faucets, except the one in the kitchen that came without the right parts (shades of the faucet handles); the floor guys who laboriously chipped away the old tiles, the wall man who removed all the wall tiles from the kitchen and bathroom, the tile cutter, the sponger, the guys who mixed the pegamento to stick down the new floors and the juntar to grout them, and the cleaner-uppers who carefully sponged the floors clean every night. There were anywhere between 6 and 12 guys working around in the house at any one time. They worked together like a well-oiled machine, each knowing exactly what his job was.

Yesterday was the celebration of the bautixo of Dagoberto, infant son of Dago, he of the eponymous puesto we like so much. He was just worn out with all the socializing brought on by this celebration so his mama put him in a hammock, gave it a couple of swings, and he was out for the rest of the party. There was a lovely comida in the garden patio next to the Nelson's house. Lots of family, cousins, abuelas, tias and assorted friends.

This is not the font used at the baptism. It is, instead, the new sink in our bathroom. We bought it three years ago during a trip to Dolores Hidalgo, knowing we would get around to installing it sooner or later. I'm going to have to think twice about spitting in it!

Friday, February 22, 2008

it's the pits

I am a fan of Mark Bittman, food critic and essayist for the New York Times. Recently he had a piece about food myths. One of the favorites here is about the avocado pit in the guacamole. I agree with Bittman; there's nothing to it. My solution: the only way to avoid having guacamole turn brown is to sit down and eat it as soon as you make it. That's how I get around the problem. If others discover what you're making you might be forced to share, so be discrete.

As for the kitchen in which the above mentioned delicacy is prepared, it's 99% done. Left to do are install and connect the faucets, replace the switch plates, paint the new surfaces (either end of the new corner work top/storage). In the bathroom they have not yet installed the sink and faucets. Our bedroom and bath are all tiled and grouted and ready to be re-furnitured. Half of the living room slider has been installed, the bedroom slider needs it's screen, but the glass door from the terrazzo into the living room is in and needs it's screen door. Downstairs they have finished the small bedroom, the laundry room, the 1/2 bath and most of the breezeway. The big downstairs bedroom/bath took a bit of doing; the entire floor had to be removed and the cement that held it down had to be chipped away. That was bone-jarring work that took almost 2 full days with 3 mozos down on their hands and knees pounding away the old cement. They had to do this because they took up all the tiles from the terrazzo and had to level out the surfaces between the two spaces to take on the new tiles. The bedroom/bath will get a new, level cement floor before they lay down the new tiles.

My guess is that the project will be finished sometime mid-week, perhaps on Wednesday. Jaime has several other houses going up around town, but he has been on our work site every day and has done most of the floor tiling himself. I walked over just now, 7 PM, and they're still hard at it. The light is not good to take photos; I'll do that in the morning. I am so, so happy with the results. It will be a pleasure to get back into the house and stay settled for the next two months and enjoy what we have done.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

epicurean eclipse

Any excuse for a party, right? The eclipse seemed as good as any. Last night we had a do-it-yourself pizza party using the big oven on Marie's terrazzo to cook them. Fernando fired it up at about 3 PM, using dried coconut husks. He pours diesel fuel into half a husk

and tosses into the oven on the pile of husks. One spark and the fire gets going. The smoke pouring out the opening has a very sweet scent, like acacia.

While this was going on outside, four of the Wednesday Night Ladies Domino Club gathered in the dining room to make pizza dough for the evening's meal. With that little chore done we all sat down for a nice glass of red. I went home to assemble a big salad to add to the feast.

After three hours the coals were just perfect and it was time to cook.

Chuy took over pinching off and rolling out little crusts. Each guest helped him/herself to a tasty selection of toppings, and Fernando did the baking.

It took about 10 minutes to cook these little beauties. The oven temperature was perfect and the pizzas turned out just the way you want them; good crust, melted cheese, nothing burned.

As for the eclipse, we sat out on the terrazzo, binoculars at the ready and watched the show in the sky until it was over. We didn't have a good, clear sky for all of it; lots of clouds floating around. But it was beautiful nonetheless.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

tonight's sky

If the sky is clear where you are in the Western Hemisphere you will be able to see the total lunar eclipse tonight. The amazing light (and dark) shows begins at around 7:30 PM with the complete dark between 9:01 and 9:51 PM. If you miss this one you'll have to wait until 2010 for the next one.

We're off to Manzanillo this morning for one more box of yellow tiles. These will finish off the kitchen, God willing. They were going to try to make do with the tiles we have left, using a variety of colors instead of all yellow but we decided that would just not do so are making what I hope will be our last tile run! More pictures later.

Monday, February 18, 2008

picture this, señora

Things are moving right along on Avenida San Blas. After tiangues this morning ~ strawberries, green beans, oranges and onions ~ we went up to Colima to pick up the tiles we had reserved. Then back home to turn them over to Jaime so he could finish the bathroom border.

This picture is taken from the floor looking up. It looks quite splendid and is a wonderful change from the old. Jaime has been doing this himself. He has done a masterful job.

Meanwhile over in the kitchen the maestro de azulejos, whose name, I discovered today is Everado, has begun to work on the walls. I am absolutely delighted with the results.

When he finishes up tomorrow I will take another photo that will show the whole thing. He has done a beautiful job.

In the living room we put a border of tiles along the bottom of the built-in sofa. We also have a built-in bookcase but the tiles just didn't fit. But with the sofa? Looks great.
The upstairs terrazzo is finished.

The next step is grouting; they'll wait to do that until all the upstairs wall tiling ~ kitchen and bathroom ~ is finished, then grout and move downstairs to begin laying floor tiles. Right now the floors are stripped of any covering.

Our friend John came and got all the tiles that were removed so he can tile his upstairs patio. Recycling at its best.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

dangerous waters

Friends went out sailing on the lagoon today and this is the sign they encountered. The Cuyutlán lagoon is better known for the salt harvest than for man-eating predators. You never know what lurks beneath, do you?

A nice, relaxing day spent inspecting the house and it's face-lift. Young again. Tomorrow it's up to Colima to buy about 50 tiles. That should be it.

Some members of the Wednesday Night Ladies Domino Club met this afternoon for a rapid fire round. One of the players commented that she remembered the click-click-click of Mahjong tiles from her mother's games long ago. Yes, it's a nice sound.

Jaime and his crew have been hard at it for 8 days. I figure another week to 10 days and they'll be done. Now if we can get the window man to install the new sliders we can move back in and start enjoying everything. Our stay here is now half finished; we've been here 2 1/2 months. My, time surely does fly . . .

Saturday, February 16, 2008

puccini hits a homer

I listened to the opera while contemplating Monday's drive up to Colima to buy, you guessed it, more tiles. It's a usual Puccini story: boy meets girls, boy loves girl, girl gets sick, girl dies, boy grieves. Gorgeous music, gorgeous voices.

As for the tiles, the Patient only calculated half of what is needed for the tile border in the bathroom. But this time I can get what's needed. After tiangues it's up to the rustico shop to buy more. We have hit on a solution to the lack of blancos for the kitchen; Jaime will use the large cream colored tiles for the bathroom walls and cut them to size. Same color, same material, same thickness. Should work just fine.

And now to bed. I'm reading Gail Godwin's "Evensong" and enjoying it greatly. I don't have to get up early in the morning and let the workers into the house. They work 5 1/2 days but Sundays they rest. Me, too.

buen salud

When students graduate from medical school in Mexico they spend one year serving in health clinics all over the country, including in small villages such as ours. They live in a little apartment at the clinic, hold regular hours, and are available 24/7 for emergencies. After their public service they go on to do specialty training. I think this is a great system; they get lots of experience, villagers get good (mostly) medical attention. The personnel changes every year so if you need the services you never know who will open the door. Four years ago our friend Carolyn became very ill. We took her to the clinica here as a first step. The doctora got her stabilized (she had a ruptured hernia and was in terrible pain), got her on a drip, called the emergency room at the hospital in Tecoman and, together with the Patient and me, got her into our car and drove with us to the hospital. All the while she was holding the drip bag and squatting over Carolyn who was lying down on the van floor. Now that's service!

Thursday afternoon the Patient needed medical attention for what appears to be a staph infection in his finger. It had been developing since Tuesday afternoon and finally got so bad he agreed to see the doc. There was angry swelling around the cuticle and it was very painful. The new doctora appears to be about Emily's age (14 next month). She took one look and seemed to know what to do; disinfect, numb, lance, drain, prescribe antibiotics. Dressed in her low-rise jeans and T-shirt, she was quick, efficient, no-nonsense. The cost for all of this, including the drugs? Whatever you would like to pay. It's all free. What you pay is considered a donation to the clinica and undoubtedly offsets the costs of those who are unable to contribute.

It's Saturday, the tile layer has run out of blanco tiles for the counter tops, if Garza doesn't have any we're out of luck. What to do, what to do? My solution is to tune in the opera, "Manon Lescaut" today, and think about it tomorrow. You may recall that this is called the "baseball" opera: (Man-on Let's-go). I don't know where I first heard that but thought I'd pass it on, it being Spring Training time and all.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

dia del amistad

When we first came to Mexico 25 years ago there was no hint of anything remotely resembling Valentine's Day. Now the shops are jammed with cards, candy, teddy bears, and assorted heart-shaped trinkets to honor the day. But they call it Dia de la Amistad, Friendship Day, instead. Tonight Fernando and Chuy are hosting a little dinner for their gringo "family"; the Patient and I, Marie, Liz and Jack. We'll feast on their wonderful fish dishes, salsa, guacamole and salad down at Dago's on the beach. I can't think of a nicer way to mark the date.

The crew has started work on the bathroom. First thing completed is the new glass wall in the shower. When I saw it yesterday I asked them to "step" the blocks down. It looks much better this way, plus it gives me a couple of built-in "shelves". If I were doing this construction this wall would be the last thing to go up. It seems to me it will be in the way as they work on the surrounding walls and the shower floor. Since I am not in charge of this project I do not mention these little oddities.

I laid out the wall tile pattern ~ a border of tiles around the perimeter, with cream tiles to the floor below and to the ceiling above. There is another pattern that goes on the sink cabinet and around the medicine cabinet. Then the ceramic items like soap dish, towel rack holders, TP holder all get inset into the tiles. And these things go on after the tile is laid. They chip away the spot and stick it on. I don't know why they do it that way; seems backwards to me.

The floor tiles in the living room and on the 2nd floor terrazzo are almost finished. This is a shot from the front door through the now-vacant front sliders out onto the balcony and the sparkling blue Pacific beyond. The large palm usually goes in the living room but i sort of like it out on the balcony. The wind, dust and salt would kill it a two weeks, however. It's never been out in the big world.

Last night the Wednesday Night Ladies Domino Club offered a welcome distraction from the day's frustrations. Apparently there are no Tlaxcala caffe colored tiles to be had anywhere within 300 miles of here. Unless, of course, you have the luxury of waiting for a month. I do not. We went to five tile places in Colima, incljuding the one Garza sent us to, on the great tile hunt and came home empty-handed. Well, not quite. The rustico tiles we ordered a month ago had arrived so we picked them up. We can cross that off the list.

As a last ditch effort we went in to Tecoman to the place we bought the bathroom wall tiles to see if they had small (11 x 11 cm or even 10 x 10cm) ceramic tiles. Yes, the do but not the color I need. The idea was that in a pinch we could use them and just increase slightly the grout seams to accommodate the difference in size. Nothing. So as far as I'm concerned, the list is complete. I'm not looking any further. I talked to the tile layer and told him to do the best he can with what he has and whatever it turns out to be will be fine with me. And it will. I am so grateful and impressed by the fine job these guys are doing. Each of them is a craftsman in his own right and together they produce a result of which they can be mighty proud.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

three out of four

We took off for Tecoman this morning with four chores in mind: check on the toilet we ordered four weeks ago; go to the bank and ask the wall for money; go to the Porcelanita store to get another box of tiles; go to the Bodega to pick up "a few things."

Yes, the toilet had arrived and here it is and muchas gracias.

Yes, you have money in the bank so here it is and use it wisely.

NO, we do not carry this tile, even though it is our brand, and so sorry we can't order it for you so too bad. Booo. We need this horita! so we will now to go back to Manzanillo where we orignally bought it.

Yes, Bodega was brimming with goodies and the "few things", as usual turned into several bags full.

Shortly after we returned Raul showed up at the house to remove the two upstairs sliders and the living room glass door. He will come back in a couple of days to remeasure after Jaime finishes laying the tiles. Until then, the house is open to the elements and, needless to say, everything else. Pray for us.

I called the store in Manzanillo and, wouldn't you know, they do not have any of those tiles and it will take at least 2 weeks to get them. Bah humbug. But they told me that a big tile store in Colima has them. So that's our destination for tomorrow morning. If they don't have them, and I can't find them anywhere else, it will be back to the design drawing board. While we're in Colima we will go to the rustico tile place and see if we really are going to get our order on Friday.

Here are a couple of shots of today's progress. This is the living room, without sliders. Looks completely different. I wish we could preserve that big open space, unalloyed by windows and screens.

They have almost finished the corner table. It's come a long way.

They will tile the bottom shelf with floor tiles; easier to slide things around than on smaller tiles.

In our back garden we have a resident land tortoise that the Patient rescued from the road. He is very shy and seldom makes an appearance. But even he is curious about the doings upstairs.

Monday, February 11, 2008

it's too late to change my mind

The tile fellows saw the design I had left in place and, PRESTO! They arrived early this morning (no tinagues for this crowd) and got right to work making it happen.

So any changes I may have wanted to make? Too late. To my surprise that has lifted a tremendous weight from my shoulders. If I end up not liking it I will learn to live with it. But so far, I am quite pleased.

They have started laying down the new floor tiles and they are more beautiful than I had remembered. I ordered 40 bags of PegaPiso this morning, and the guy I talked to, Pedro, was amazed that I needed that many. He asked several times if I was sure; I said yes. So this afternoon he showed up, took a look around and agreed that 40 would probably do it.

It has been a real lesson in tile-laying to watch Jaime do the measurements, make the string grids, and mark out the pattern.

They have used a straight shot from one side of the house to the other to make their center point. This point runs the full width of the house, from the bedroom balcony wall across the terrazzo through the front door and to the far south wall. All subsequent tile will flow from that center point. I thought they might start out on the balcony and move inside. It's a good thing I made my fortune doing something else.

Tomorrow Raul comes in the morning to remove the front door and the two upstairs sliders. He came today and took the measurements for the two new kitchen windows which he said he would have maybe Friday or Monday. I can live with that. Meanwhile we will be off to Tecoman to hunt down the missing toilet, ordered almost 4 weeks ago and promised for three weeks ago, buy more tiles, get money to pay Jaime and his workers, and go to the market if we think it's necessary. Then it's back home to be dazed and amazed by the skill and hard work of this great crew.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

the tile dilemma

I still have not hit on the right tile design, despite many iterations both in person and in my nightmares. I thought I had found it, but decided it was much too busy. So I simplified and decided it was too rigid. Last night, during one of my usual sleepless periods, I hit on something completely different. This morning I went over to the house and rearranged everything I had so carefully laid out yesterday. I think it's better, but need to wait until the floor is down to be sure I don't have too much terra cotta color. Here are my layouts.

I decided that this was much too busy, too fragmented. I thought I wanted it completely random, using all the colors at will, but it is not a good match with the "lighter weight" layout of the walls. I have dispensed with the "rick rack" tile as a border; it doesn't really go with anything else and is too busy when juxtaposed with what's going on above it. We bought two boxes of these beauties; back to Dolores next year for a return!

This is the second try. I lined the tiles up on the diagonal and laid them out in stripes. It actually looked quite stunning. But then in the wee small hours I realized that the countertops would completely overwhelm the more delicate patterns of the walls. I do like the new border tiles, though. They are terra cotta, yellow and blue and tie in nicely with the walls. So I have now abandoned the diagonal stripe for something different.

My midnight thinking went something like this. I have four colors that I can pick up from the wall tiles. The wall pattern is mainly terra cotta with what's called Mexican blanca which is actually cream color. The floor, too, is a rich terra cotta color. I don't want to be overwhelmed by it, but I think the countertops should be a continuation of the wall style. So here's what I came up with today. The perimeter of the tops will be framed with terra cotta with a preponderance of creme tiles and the two other colors dropped in now and then. Much cleaner, much less cluttered, and a better compliment to the wall pattern. I don't want to get the yellow tiles too close to the border as the yellow tones are quite different; one is a barro rustico clay tile and the other is a fired ceramic. One is more gold, the other true yellow. But hey, this is Mexico.

I need a solid night's sleep so I don't come up with something yet different for tomorrow.


Carnival came to our village last night, despite the fact that we are already into Lent and should be "shriving" and putting the world apart. The reason it was not last weekend was that it conflicted with the Virgin of Candelaria festival down in the road in Tecoman. So last night the whole town turned out for the big parade and party. Things got underway about 7 PM (despite the announcement to be at the jardin at 5 PM). We opted to stay here and watch from the second-floor balcony. This colorful group stopped right in front of us with their beautifulo May-pole type dance.
Then came a parade of decorated cars. I particularly liked this one with its big ears on the sides.

This little boy was wheeling a big heavy wheelbarrow filled with different kinds of nuts and sweets. He steered his goodies through the crowds, stopping to serve up his wares in little paper cones he spun from a stack of brown paper you can see in the top left corner of his cart.

There were several floats, including a wonderful one of Miss Volcano. I tried to take a picture but it was just too dark by that time and it didn't work. The float had a big paper maché volcano, modeled on the active volcano in Colima, out of which Miss Volcano rose. There was a queen of the parade, an ex-queen, mariachi bands. Finally, there was a beautiful fireworks display to bring it all to a close. Today it's back to sackcloth and ashes.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

dinner at Aline and Franz's

At one of the prettiest new houses on the beach we, along with about 20 other guests, enjoyed a really lovely party. It seems that as we get older our gatherings with friends get better. Nobody gets (too) tipsy, nobody jumps in the pool or creates a spectacle. The evening was warm and mild, the food was delicious, conversation lively, laughter plentiful, and fellowship the best. We finally got home at midnight which, for us early-to-bed types bespeaks of having a fine time.

Up early this morning to inspect the extent of yesterday's house progress. The third floor is finished ~ grouted, polished and ready for action.
First party will be on the Ides of March, Saturday the 15th. If you're in town, drop by. About 7 PM for puesta del sol followed by dinner and dancing.

My kitchen now has two new windows to let in more light and let out cooking heat. This is how it looked before the wrecking crew arrived on Thursday.

This is how it looked stripped of its tiles.

And here it is with the new windows. They open onto the stairwell that goes up to the party platform. There are no serious design flaws in this house; Roy was very careful and did a superb job of capturing the very best of the location. But the kitchen is hot and a bit airless, despite having windows on the south and north sides. What it needed was some sort of pass-thru capability so that the breezes that come into the living room off the sea get pulled into and out of the kitchen to keep things comfortable. Now we have that; these two little windows will help draw those breezes up and out.

The reason they are so high is that Jaime ran into rebar supports a few inches lower. But since heat rises (Mrs. Nelson, Physics I, would be amazed I still remember that) they should do the trick at that height. Now I have to get Raul, the ventana maker, back to measure and make louvered windows to fit.

The crew also began chipping up the old floor in the livng room and on the balcony. Jaime asked me this morning if I wanted to removar or picar (like he did upstairs) the old tiles. I had originally thought it would all come up, but since he asked me I figured there was a reason. He said he thought it would be better for the floor, keep it mas fuerte except where the old tiles were either broken or had pulled loose from their original cementing. Since I do not make my living laying tiles I deferred to his better judgment. So they are doing a combination of chipping and removing.

Whichever they do, it's nasty work. Even from here, a block away, we could here a reprise of the "Anvil Chorus" until about 1:45, quitting time on Saturday.

Jaime runs a very tight crew. They are expected to clean up behind themselves, and they do. I went over at quitting time. Eight of them were lounging around upstairs while Jaime inspected the work site. He went into the bathroom, checked everything out. Then he went to the kitchen, living room and balcony. Sort of a white-glove test. He will not dismiss the crew until he is satisfied that they have cleaned everything. A nod from him to the assembled men sent them off. He gave me a big smile and said, "Hasta lunes!

Friday, February 08, 2008

just add an "o"

Last night's dinner on the beach was just about perfect. The setting was one of the most reliable pleasures here ~ Dago's puesto at sunset. The company was, as usual, lively and congenial. The meal was superb; I had shrimp, the Patient had fish fillet sauteed in butter. Shelia had her first encounter with squid. It was a success. We managed to talk about politics, national and local, cultural quirks both norte and Mexican, food, family dynamics, economic issues especially in this town. All of this was done mostly in Spanish. My rule for this is to plunge right in, don't be shy, and to keep in mind that the worst thing they could possibly do to you if you use the wrong tense is laugh, but that is highly unlikely. My other rule is a universally understood linguistic one: just add an "o" and you'll probably get it right.

Meanwhile, back at the destruction derby, things are progressing apace. I think they will grout the 3rd floor tomorrow. The tiles are all down and it looks sensational.

In the kitchen, all walls and countertops have been de-tiled and the new corner table has been poured and it setting up. (Almost all construction is poured cement, including roofs. That, believe me, is a sight to see.)

In the bathroom, all fixtures have been removed and all tile chipped off the walls. It looks quite naked.

Tonight we are going to a party down in the colonia; dinner and dancing under the stars by the seashore. What better way to end a hectic work week?

Thursday, February 07, 2008

il trovatore

This morning began the great tear-down build-up on Avenida San Blas. Jaime and five of his crew arrived at 8 AM ready to chip-chip-chip away at the tiles on the 3rd floor. They went up and down the stairs, each carrying one very heavy box of tiles (the cheapest thing in Mexico is labor, next to oranges, flowers and taxis) or an even heavier bag of Pegapiso, the glue that holds the tiles down. Then began the Anvil Chorus, as they started scoring the old tiles with chisels and hammers.

After the 10 AM breakfast break the number of workers swelled to 8. With their noise, combined with the clang and bang from the repairs on the malecon just a block in front of us we are getting a stereo serenade.

We are not taking up the old tiles upstairs to preserve the integrity of the floor beneath which acts as roof to the kitchen and bedrooms. They laid out their grid and level lines with string. Then they began to lay the new tiles.

While we were eating lunch out on the terrazzo here, I thought I detected smashing noises that were NOT coming from the 3rd floor. So I walked over to see if indeed some of them had moved on to the kitchen and bathroom. Indeed they had. By the time they left for the 2 PM comida break, they had made great progress in destroying every thing in their path. Looks great. One of the things I am having done is the conversion of a small seating area in the kitchen into a counter-top and shelf. We never used it for a table/banquette but would use it as storage and food prep/service, esp. for all the fabulous parties we will now host. (Don 't hold your breath.) The only regret I have is that I will lose that wonderful fabric; I have no place else to use those tailor-made cushions.

My friend Marie came over a few days ago, did a quick sketch of what I wanted, which I then handed to Jaime. He gave it a look, asked a couple of questions, smiled and said ok, and here's the beginning of it.

The side walls on either end will be solid and tiled; the shelf and top will also be tiled. There will be an electric outlet put in on the wall top left, horizontally, to accommodate things like blender or whatever else I may need. This will be a great addition to the kitchen and will finally put to good use a dead spot.

The kitchen and bath demo should be completed by 6 PM tonight, quitting time. I'll take more photos then. Meanwhile, I have been informed by the store in Colima where I ordered 4 sq. meters of tile for the kitchen that they will no be in the shop until late next week, despite a promise they would be here 2 weeks ago. But the guys have plenty of other things to keep them busy, including taking up all the floor tiles everywhere except in the kitchen. The walls have to be done first.

Tonight we are going to Dago's for dinner with Fernando and Chuy, Shelia and Marie. Shrimp mojo de ajo I hope.

the foods of Lent

There are some culinary specialties we enjoy only during Lent here in our little village, and only on Fridays. As I was raised on meatless Fridays during Lent, I look forward to these things, in one form or another.

One is chiles rellenos, those delicious cholesto/carbo treats I always look for on a menu but seldom find. I would like the local version even better if made with a creamier cheese. As it is, they are stuffed with a dry, very salty hard cheese that doesn’t melt during cooking. After three bites I scrape the cheese out and eat the tender, flavorful poblana chile and sop up the spicy sauce.

The other treat is a postre called capirotada. It’s like a bread pudding but with everything at hand thrown in, plus nuts. By everything I mean left-over veggies, diced fine, stale tortillas and raisins. Then it’s all bound together with eggs and milk and spices like nutmeg and cinnamon. It can be an interesting discovery when you spoon up a helping! During this season it’s served automatically with any order of rellenos but again, only on Fridays.

Yesterday (even though it was Wednesday) afternoon as we were standing amid the wreckage of the apartment we have just moved into, Chuy appeared at the door bearing a container of her home-made capirotada. From all my taste testings of this dessert, she makes the absolute best ever, and it was a very welcome treat, especially for the Patient who loves the stuff. It was still warm and fragrant with spices and that good egg-y, custard-y smell.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

she did it!

She got the big ones ~ New York, New Jersey, California! Now it's on to the White House.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

early and often

In an email from grandson Andrew, he said he was going out to practice democracy. I hope you all did. My ballot was sent in over two weeks ago with a visitor returning to the US. This is one I did not want to miss. We were in France in 2004 and our absentee ballots never caught up with us so I missed the chance to vote against GWB, again. But this time I will be counted. I did go back and forth ~ but finally decided that Hillary made the most sense. In this mornings NYTimes, David Brooks has a hit piece on her. Why he waited so long I don't know, and besides that, it's all old news. I will try to stay awake until 10 PM tonight (our time) to see what happens in CA. But if not, tomorrow is soon enough.

I would love to see an old fashioned Democratic convention with floor fights, credential challenges (as in 1964 and the famous Fannie Lou Hamer speech) casting votes state by state ("The great State of California, home of the Golden Gate Bridge, proud producer of the country's largest prune crop, and the place where Hollywood makes dreams come true, casts it's 120 votes for . . ."), balloon drops and last minute surprises. Remember those old contests? I don't even remember the last time we had one. Was it JFK and Averill Harriman in 1960? Now it's all neatly tied up and is completely pro forma and we'll know the outcome by, well, probably tonight.

After yester morning tiangues shopping, where I bought the first mangoes of the season, followed by bean tacos and beer at La Jacaranda, I started to pack up the house. What a chore. We do this in May when we leave. I don't like having to do it twice. Plus it makes me think we are leaving soon. All the pillows have been bagged up, except the few we will take to liven up the apartment at Jack's. Next will be the couch cushions. Books have been boxed up., pictures taken down, doo-dads stored in the book shelves. We'll take the CD player with us plus a tasteful selection of dinner music. The furniture will be left where it is. It's Jaime's job to figure out where to move it and how to work around it. We can't just shove everything into a guest bedroom since that room also has furniture which must be moved somewhere else.

Today is Constitution Day so the town is full of long-week-enders. In Mexico they have what are called puentes or bridge days. If a holiday is on a Tuesday (as is this particular one), then Monday is a holiday, the "bridge" day. If it falls on a Friday, then Thursday is also a holiday. Lots of day-trippers. The beaches are crowded, the puestos busy. Good for the local economy. And the weather is cooperating beautifully; sunny, warm, breezy.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Happy Birthday to You!

Today is my "baby" sister's birthday. This photograph is not my sister. It is instead Ruby, her granddaughter, aka The Cherry Princess, wearing the dress we sent her for Christmas. But the wish is definitely from me, the BIG sister. Happy Birthday, Vicky.

On the home front, Jaime came by early this morning to tell us that he would begin work on Thursday. I'm not yet certain exactly where he will start ~ kitchen, bath or 3rd level floors ~ but he WILL start. I still need to buy a few things: pegamento to cement the floor tiles and a different type for the walls; one of those little screen things that go into a bathroom basin so your diamond ring doesn't slide down the drain; ditto for the two shower floors; a new faucet for the kitchen; grout for the kitchen walls and countertops. It will be back to Tecoman on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, we are packing up to move over to Jack's on Wednesday afternoon.

This is not actually Jack's house. It's the interior courtyard of La Posada San Miguel, our hotel in Patzcuaro. But you get the idea.