Monday, December 20, 2010

So much for 'Normal'

I suddenly realized we have a new 'normal'. Miguel's property management business is keeping us hopping. Not to mention the full occupancy at the apartments and here at the B&B.

It is becoming apparent that the second "B" in 'B&B' is a bit too much for Miguel, as it is in the prime time of the morning for him. So we need to decide what to do about that...time will tell, I imagine. My new dream is to have a smaller home with a huge lot that has a high fence so all the animals can be outdoors with lots of room to play and run. Loco has tons of energy but there just isn't anywhere he can go to run it off, although he tries. In the late evenings we can get him to play in the road as there isn't any traffic, and sometimes he comes inside and runs from the living room to the kitchen and back...slip-sliding because of the tiles and his one funny leg. When he runs one of his front legs swings sideways before it moves forward, like it's longer than all the rest or something. It's a funny thing to watch. I can imagine he would just love a big yard of grass.

Funny how dreams change based on priorities. But that's part of the fun of life - none of the decisions we make have to be 'forever'. Don't be afraid to let go of something that no longer meets your needs - because there will always be other options and it's fun to think about them all and then decide what you want to try next. Luckily, the furry family will be happy with whatever is decided - as long as they have their food, water, and fuzzy blankets and warm humans, they're happy. Hmmm...maybe we should all just make it that simple!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Life returning to "normal"

Sunday I will be back 'home' on Isla. It's been a tough couple of months for Miguel holding down the fort while I was absent dealing with the death of my father, the birth of my grandson, and packing up and moving out of my condo in Canada. High season kicks in next week, so we'll be running for the next few months. Will see some old guests and lots of new ones. Hoping for great weather, good food, and lots of relaxation for all. Cheers!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010


Kyle seems to understand how I feel about all this packing and sorting and hauling of boxes. Three more days and my time is up. Hoping I make it!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Hello Chocolate!

Chocolate cake, chocolate icing, chocolate pie, chocolate bar, chocolates. I am in chocolate heaven here in Canada, even if my body knows better.

The best chocolate cake, with chocolate icing comes from a grocery store in Niagara Falls. The store has changed names over the years - Food City, IGA, Foodland - but their cakes don't seem to have changed at all. The cake is moist and the icing is creamy and not too sweet - just right in my book. I like the pieces with the flowers as they give me more icing. Yum!

The best chocolate pie can be found at a local diner that has been around for as long as I can remember. John's Restaurant on Thorold Stone Rd. Flaky pastry, creamy chocolate custard, and smooth creamy topping drizzled with chocolate sauce. When I was pregnant with Jen, I ate chocolate pie almost every day - no wonder she was born allergic to chocolate. It had been a while since I ate there, but I went today, since Jen and Miko live nearby, and I took the pie 'to go'. Well, now it's 'gone' (and boy was it good!).

Chocolate bars. What can I say? Canadian chocolate bars such as Coffee Crisp, Smarties, Oh Henry, Sweet Marie, Caramilk. They know what they're doing when they put these by the check-outs.

Chocolates. I actually don't care for most chocolates when they come as pieces, but the exception is Lindoor chocolates - the ones they give you when you order the Festive Special at Swiss Chalet. They make it so easy to order - online, with quick delivery.

Research shows that eating chocolate is good for you. An ounce a day. Hmmm...I didn't weigh the cake, or the pie, and didn't notice the weight on the packaging of the chocolate bars. I suspect I  have overdosed on chocolate, but I don't care - I'm in a GREAT mood!!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Here he is...

Baby Kyle, born at 18:05 Nov 27, weighing 7.08 lbs. Everyone is doing great!

Happy parents Jen and Miko after 36 hrs of labor...

Grandpa Bob

Grandma Sue

Grandpa Julian


Thursday, November 25, 2010

Little bullets from Canada

  • Still waiting for the birth of my first grandchild - a boy who will be named Kyle. Miguel pronounces it "Cay-O", which means 'fall' in Spanish. The baby was due last Sunday, but so far he's choosing to stay inside Jen's warm tummy. I don't blame him, because (next bullet)...
  • Wow, it got cold today. Until today the furnace had not bothered to kick in. Not really sure why, it's been under 20 degrees celcius since I've been here, but my condo stays at that temperature all by itself. Until today. Remembering that the furnace feeds on fresh air and I have not lived here for a while, I decided I'd better check the outside filter. Uh huh - it's got a nice layer of stuck-together dust, it's suffocating. The problem is that there is no way to remove the grill over the filter in order to give it a proper cleaning. I used to sit on the balcony with a Q-tip and poke through each slot and wiggle the Q-tip back and forth to loosen the plaque. Today I tried too, but my arm got tired and I made little progress. to search for a brush of some kind, a skinny wirey one that would fit between the grill. What I found didn't really work well, it's just a little too wide. I tried to bend back the wires on half of the brush, and succeeded in poking my thumb several times and drawing blood. I gave up on the brush. Tomorrow I'm going to try a plastic fork, something has to pull that stuff off the filter.
  • What is with all these shows on HGTV where couples are looking for homes that have a 'man-cave'? When I was married all those years ago, it was accepted that the man got a) the shed, b) the basement, and c) the garage. So why do they also need a cave? And oh - what's with women and their love affair with walk-in closets? In my life the kitchen and living room are the heart of the home, I have no need or desire to spend time in a closet. Don't care about the clothing or shoes either.
  • I sold Jen's box spring and mattress from the double bed she used here in the condo and I feel rich! Money handed over for something I was happy to see gone from my home. I LIKE that! Now I'm trying to sell my lovely bedroom suite and a couple sets of dishes. I had hoped Jen would take the bedroom suite but it's too big for her guest room. Darn, I love that set and hate to sell it for much less than it's worth.
  • The property management company has been by, the flooring guy has been by, and I'm hoping the handyman will come by. All those little pieces are coming together, can't really say the same for all the 'stuff' I still have here. I have taken boxes to Goodwill and have packed several containers, but still have more than I know what to do with. I gave an Anne Geddes print to the young daughter who accompanied her mattress-buying mom - she was thrilled..."I just love this one and must have it", she said when presented with two prints. She chose the rosebud with the baby tucked inside, and it's nice to know that a little girl will have something special to cherish in her new bedroom. I'm holding onto the other print in case another little girl shows up with her parents.
  • I am still in my condo, despite the fact that most of the furniture is gone. I have what I need though - a bed, my lazy-boy, the dining room table/chairs, and my tiny tv. I have the fixings for coffee, oatmeal, salami on bread, cheese and crackers, and some coffee crisp bites tucked up in the cupboard. It is more convenient staying here for now, as I can clean and pack as time and energy permits.
  • I am still in love with Canadian Tire, and if I had unlimited funds I'd do my best to open a franchise down in Cancun. I am not a shopper but when I need something, I like being able to go into a store and actually FIND what I'm looking for, and if I can't find it, I can find someone who is interested in HELPING me find it. Can't say I often have that same experience in Mexico.
  • Miguel and the pets are all doing well without me, I think they've got it all figured out. Much as this time in Canada is necessary for several reasons, I look forward to being back and fighting for couch space with Miguel and the cats. I hope I get back before the snow flies here - I don't have boots and I don't intend to buy any.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Deal with it

Sitting in the Cancun airport. Across from me were some middle-aged women. They stayed at some resort here. I started to form my stereotype opinion. Yack, yack, yack...a bunch of nonsense, I thought.

The chatty woman was talking about someone in their party who had been complaining about the hard beds. Then she came shining through with these words of wisdom. "Deal with it".

I immediately decided this woman was ok. And that she belonged on Isla Mujeres for vacation, not some resort in Cancun. Because with her attitude, she would take all the flaky Isla things in stride. I think it would take a lot to ruffle her feathers.

This lady became my hero for the day. In fact, I think I'd like to go with her on her next vacation. She's a cool granny.

Addendum: I'm now in a rocking chair at the Charlotte airport, sitting between concourse B and C and listening to the piano player. So relaxing, he's great. I walked over to drop a bill in his jar and he looked up, right into my eyes, and gave me a huge smile and softly said "Thank You". I won't forget that smile for a while, he's my second hero of the day.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Long overdue

For the last month or so many of you have been kind enough to write comments, and I really appreciate that. All the comments about my dad's illness and death were so thoughtful. I haven't written much in the way of a blog, or a tweet, or an email, or Facebook, and I haven't written comments even though I've pretty much kept up with the social media - just didn't have the energy or much to say.

So for those of you who wrote comments, who sent emails, and who posted on Facebook, please know that I read it all and drew comfort from the words. Thank you for taking the time to write, and for being there to offer support. Thank you for not giving up on this blog. Thank you All.


Monday, November 15, 2010

Simply Exhausted

Life finally demanded payback. 'You can't keep that pace forever', it said. Apparently both Miguel and I hit the critical level at the same time, because both of us are simply wiped out.

Two trips to Europe in the same month, with a 7-hr time difference as well as a daylight savings time clock correction. Trips to Canada and back. Tons of worry and concern about my father, followed by sadness and support for those left behind. Anticipation of an upcoming baby boy. Financial difficulties, health concerns, and the question of whether to rent or sell my condo. Worry about how Miguel was coping without me, as well as our furry family.

On Miguel's part, he had three potential hurricanes during the month I was gone; one required boarding up of the houses he manages. He never got a chance to board up our own homes, thankfully it wasn't necessary in the end. Three house guests, meaning daily breakfasts and cleaning and oversight to keep the animals out of their way. He mostly succeeded, although Luna decided to show everyone what a great hunter she is and left a treasure out on the terrace for the guests one morning. I got a message from Miguel after that one - 'what a terrible day!' - I was relieved it was just a dead member of the rodent family rather than something really tragic.

We both coped, but are glad to be back to our normal routine for a few days. Our days are full right now, and it's all we can do to stay awake past 6 pm. In fact, the last two nights we crashed very early, and today we even took a nap after breakfast.

A trip to Canada later this week, and high season just around the corner means we need to take the respite while we can. I woke up long enough to feed the dogs and write this blurb, but now it's time for bed. Again. Sweet dreams.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Mom and Dad

Today marks 20 years since my mother passed away from a painful, 4-year battle with breast cancer. It's hard to believe it's been that long, she was only 57. I was much younger then and was not able to express my grief, especially in public.

Today was also the day of my father's funeral in Norway. Since the service was conducted in Norwegian, and I was the only child of my father's who was able to be here, I wrote something for the minister to say on my behalf, in English. Here it is...

My Dad was a loving father. The man I knew was generous, quiet, and prone to pondering, and he liked to kid around at times. He enjoyed crossword puzzles while eating his breakfast, he liked the Road Runner cartoons, he enjoyed watching soccer, and he loved turkey dinner with pumpkin pie. 

My memories of him when I was a child are of rides in the Ford car, A&W drive-in, Dairy Queen ice cream, Smarties, family picnics along the river, tobogganing, and ice skating – on a rink he made in the back yard.

My Dad always enjoyed get-togethers with family and friends. In his later years he dedicated much of his time to researching the family tree and contacting long lost relatives, real or potential, and he often visited them in their homes, where they chatted like old friends. Hundreds of pictures document all the people my father considered family. 

Since my father’s death I have had the privilege to read messages sent from old business friends, and that has given me a new insight into the man who was my father. The words ‘mentor, friend, good person’, were frequently used to describe how people remember Dad. He taught them so much, he was respectful of different cultures, he was a hard worker, he gave everything.

I am sad that my Dad will not get to visit my home in Mexico, or see his first great-grandchild, or eat corn-on-the-cob during a visit to Canada. I hope his spirit will find us, and if indeed they do serve corn-on-the-cob, pumpkin pie, and turkey with stuffing up there with the angels, my Dad will really be in Heaven. And knowing him, he has a family reunion planned for when we all meet again.

Thank you for everything, Dad. I love you.
Your daughter, Sue

I am the product of my mother and my father. I have my father's eyes, and his nose. My siblings look more like my mother, yet those who have never met my father, but knew my mother, can see her resemblance in me somehow. 

My father died on the same date as his mother. Did she come for him? Maybe...

A child close to my father here in Norway, two days after his death, said that he could see my Dad up in the sky, and announced that he had married. We had to laugh. But maybe it's possible?!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

My Dad

Passed away in his sleep yesterday, after a long battle with emphysema and COPD. We are terribly sad.

Finally he is peace.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

On the move

Today my sister is moving. This month my daughter is moving. Next month I am moving.

Yesterday I went to my sister's house to help her with final packing and cleaning. My sister has moved more than anyone I know, and each move involved purging - but she still has a lot of stuff to pack up and move. This time she is moving back to our hometown of Niagara Falls. She's even moving back to the same street we grew up on, although a different house. Brings back a lot of memories every time I drive around that area.

I remember my school, my friends, and playing in the park. I remember riding my tricycle down the sidewalk, and jumping off the stoop on the front porch. I remember the neighborhood grocery store, and how my mother always got the butcher to cut the steak 1.5" thick.

My daughter is moving to a subdivision close to her dad. My grandmother once lived in that subdivision. Their home is off one of the main roads that cut through the subdivision - a road I've used many times, especially to get to the Italian bakery for some crusty bread. They have a park and green space nearby, and will live on a quiet crescent. Close to schools, shopping and restaurants, a perfect place to raise a family.

Although I will be 'moving', I'm really just taking my stuff out of my condo in St Catharines and either hauling it down to Mexico in suitcases, giving it away, or selling it on Kijiji. I will have to store some stuff at my daughter's until I can get it all down to Mexico. I hope to be able to start renting my condo by January. We'll see how it goes, if it doesn't work out I can always sell instead.

With each trip to Canada I've taken stuff back to Mexico. Until recently it mostly sat in the dining room, cluttering up the table and desk and stressing me out every time I had to look at it. Before I went to Norway I was determined to get a handle on it. The bookcase is now clean and neat, the desk is somewhat decluttered, and all the 'stuff' on the dining room table has been sorted and put into baskets for further processing. My best intentions are to keep it that way.

So life in Canada is being lived in disarray right now. I am no longer much of a consumer, so buying new stuff to add to the clutter is not going to be a problem. If only I could get rid of all the paperwork required to be kept on file for taxes. Actually, if only I could get rid of taxes!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Baby Shower

I was only on Isla for two days between Norway and Canada. Not enough time to make it worthwhile to shop for groceries for dinners. So, what did we do? We did what we often do when we're hungry and there's nothing to eat in the house - we went to La Bruja.

As has been the case many days during this very low of low seasons, we were the only ones there on Wednesday. Dona Mari and the two waitresses were seated at one of the bigger tables making something with beads. Each of them took turns being our waitress, including Dona Mari.

When it was time to leave Miguel told them that I was off again to Canada. So I chimed in, wanting to tell them that I was going back for Jen's baby shower. Only I didn't know how to say baby shower in Spanish, so it went something like this...

"Voy a Canada por ver a mi hija, ella es embarazada. Vamos hacer una fiesta por su nino, con regalos". (I'm going to Canada to see my daughter, she's pregnant. We going to have a party for her baby, with gifts).

"Oh", replied Dona Mari. "Baby Shower". In perfect English, even though Dona Mari doesn't speak English. Since there is no Spanish equivalent for "baby shower", they have adopted our words, and they say it perfectly. "Baby Shower" - so simple.

On Thursday we were running errands, taking a nap, and keeping an eye on Tropical Storm Richard, which at the time looked like it was going to be a hurricane right at us. We decided to eat again at La Bruja, so after Miguel made his rounds of his houses, he headed down the east side towards the street where we turn to go to La Bruja.

Except he kept going. I asked where he was going, and he was going to do a tour of the south end of the island. It was sunset, so it was beautiful despite the chill from the north winds. When we got to the west side, where we turn to go to La Bruja, he kept going. By then he'd forgotten we hadn't yet eaten and was heading home.

Finally we pulled up to La Bruja and the iron door was closed. Yup, it was Thursday, the day where they take the later part of the day off. But the family was all seated inside, relaxing and enjoying visiting with each other. They called out, "Come!".

They opened up for us, and took our order. As we waited for our food, another couple came along. And then a golf cart loaded with about 8 people pulled up. La Bruja and the family were not going to get their day of rest after all, but they were happy. This has been a very tough year for everyone, and the business was most welcome. All the family headed to the kitchen to help with the food preparation, and the son became the waiter. A real family-run Mexican diner.
Now I'm in Canada and today I'm going to Jen's baby shower. It's just the females on my side of the family - so rather small, about 7 of us. I spent yesterday afternoon buying baby stuff, and later Jen and I went to Babies R Us to pick up some larger items from her wish list.

Like this Lamb swing/cradle:

Notice the little lamb ears up on the head cushion. Can't wait to see baby Kyle in his swing.

This morning I'm off to buy food for the shower. I've eaten my breakfast - finished off a bag of cheesies that I started yesterday. Again - no food in the house. Where's La Bruja when I need it?

Saturday, October 23, 2010

A little tired

On Tuesday we got up at 3 am, ate some toast, and left the condo in Norway at 4 am (Norway time - 7 hrs ahead of Isla time) - our pre-arranged taxi was even a few minutes early.

I had told my brother and sister about the delicious apple danish they have at the Trondheim airport. My brother was connecting through Oslo so we went our separate ways after the security check. "Remember the strudel", I called after him.

My sister and I made our way to the KLM side of the airport - on our way to our Amsterdam connection. I bought the apple strudel, danish...whatever...and cut a piece for my sister. It was just as delicious as always and I enjoyed every last crumb. I found out later that my brother didn't find the danish - they claimed not to know anything about it over on his side of the airport. Poor thing - doesn't know what he missed.

On the flight to Amsterdam, KLM gave us rolls with cheese. Breakfast # 3 -the least favorite. But no worries, because I was already planning breakfast #4 - the Quiche Lorraine at the cafe near the Yotel Hotel on the second level at the Amsterdam airport. On our way through Amsterdam, on the way to Norway, I ate one of those quiches, and it was probably the best quiche in my life. Breakfast # 4 did not disappoint, it was great.

We called my dad while I was eating the quiche, and he asked me how many breakfasts I'd eaten. I confessed to having eaten 4 breakfasts in the space of 6 hours, although they were all small, if that matters. I would not eat again until they served me on the next flight, which would not be until about 3 pm Norway time.

I got lucky again on the flight home and had two seats to myself, allowing me to pull up my legs and get my feet off the floor and reduce the swelling. I can't say I was really comfortable but it was better than only having one seat, and I was able to doze off now and then. I also watched a forgettable movie on my personal entertainment system that was included with my comfort class ticket - the movie helped the last hours of the 11 hour flight go by a little faster.

I arrived on Isla around 8 pm. Two busy days sorting things out at the house and on Thursday evening I took the ferry back to Cancun to spend the night at the Marriott Courtyard, courtesy of my Marriott points. My flight out to Canada the next day was at 6:30 am. Luis, our Cancun taxi driver picked me up at the ferry, took me to the hotel, and kept my big suitcase in his trunk so I wouldn't have to lug it up to my room. At 4 am the next morning he was at the hotel to take me to the airport. Having a taxi driver like Luis, especially when traveling alone at night, makes things so much more relaxed.

I arrived in Toronto at 3 pm yesterday, and was picked up by my St Catharines taxi driver Armando. We took the toll road to avoid the rush hour traffic, and I was at the condo by 4:30 pm. A quick greeting to Jen before I left to hit the bank and the grocery store, back at the condo to eat dinner with Jen (all prepared food bought at the grocery store - pretty darn good too!), and then I crashed on the couch.

It was just supposed to be a nap, but it turned into an all-night marathon of sleep. I guess I needed it.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

From Norway

Here we are, my sister, brother, father, and me. I won't include our step-mother in this crazy mix, she's an innocent bystander, at least when it comes to family dynamics.

Funny how the years have not changed us much. When we were kids I always had to sit between my brother and sister in the back seat of the car - to keep them from fighting. I am still the quiet one, the older sister in the middle of a bickering brother and sister. At least they aren't fist fights, just little snippets back and forth. Nothing serious, just sibling stuff.

My dad, despite his frail health, is still the head of the household. He sits in his hospital chair, with his oxygen mask, but still manages to give us our chores - load this program, copy these pictures, find his email addresses, charge his camera, change the tires on the car, etc. Occasionally we don't quite get what he's asking for, and he barks at us...and we jump.

He hasn't lost his sense of humor. He still gets a charge out of scaring the nurses. He told us that when they were moving him from one area to another and had to reconnect his oxygen, just as the nurse went to put the tubing on the adaptor, my dad said "Boom!", and the nurse jumped and ran out of the room.

I guess this runs in the family, because yesterday my brother was putting a plug in the wall, and as he pushed on the plug, both he and I went "Zzzzttttttt" at the same time, and my brother jolted his body like he'd been shocked, trying to scare everyone in the room. My sister was the only one fooled by this.

Although my dad is happy to have us all visit, he is most eager when it's time to leave. Time to leave comes upon us quickly, dictated by the call of nature. "Go, go now!", orders my father. And we all scramble to collect our belongings and get the heck out of his room so he can attend to his needs.

We bought my dad an ipad, a gift we thought he might enjoy, especially to look at pictures. The screen on the ipad is wonderful - photos look great and he and our step-mother have really enjoyed looking at all the pictures. With technology comes challenges, and our visits have turned into technological sessions - wifi issues, voltage adaptors, uploads, downloads, program installations, configurations, extension cords, ipod touch, and cell phones. All cords and chargers are arranged on the side table within easy reach.

The hospital is new and modern - the room has a tv that is internet-enabled. But how does someone use a touch-screen tv when seated in a chair across the room? My dad has a secret weapon - his gopher. The other day he demonstrated how he uses the tip of his gopher to change channels, push icons, and put his tv into full-screen mode. And he's become an expert.

My dad is the control center of life here in Norway. Even though he is sitting in the hospital, he calls on a regular basis to see what we are up to, to pass along requests, and to tell us how he is doing. I remember the old days when hospitals were unfriendly places and people had to get special permission to bring in something as simple as a radio, first getting the electricians in the hospital to check out the cords and put a stamp of approval on the device. Cell phones were not permitted for anyone. How things have changed, and thank goodness for that - the patient is able to maintain some control over their life even if they can't get out and about during their hospitalization. So much better than just sitting idle and bored, waiting for nurses, doctors, medicines, and visitors.

Tomorrow is our last day here. We are still hoping for some sunshine so my brother can take some stunning pictures of the views and the wooden homes. We are hoping to find a frozen pie shell, and if not, the ingredients to make pastry - we promised my dad a piece of pumpkin pie. We will get the tires changed, and try to find a drugstore and an eyeglass store to pick up some items requested by my dad. And we will try to eat as much of the leftover food as possible. Anything to oblige.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Social Overlap

There is one problem with using Facebook, Twitter, and blogging, and that is that people who follow you on all the social networks you belong to, will get tired reading the same subject matter on each of the forums.

So for those of you who read my blurb on Facebook yesterday, I apologize. But to be true to my blog and my broom 'fetish', as one Facebook friend called it, I must post this picture:

The broom is hanging over one of the streets near the baseball field. How it got there, or why, is anyone's guess, but I'll take a whack at guessing what happened.

- an angry wife, while telling her lazy slob of a husband to get off his duff and do something, claiming she'd had enough of waiting on him, slammed the broom across her knee and tossed it out the window. The broom just happened to find a grip to prevent itself from falling to the street below.

- the broom was being used to chase cockroaches, and when the head of the broom was smushed at the cockroach, the handle broke. So the broom was tossed out the window.

- the broom was used to smack a naughty child on the butt, and the handle broke. And the broom was tossed out the window.

Any of the above could be true, but it's the 'tossed out the window' part that I don't quite buy.

Maybe, as one Facebook friend commented, "poor broom was probably replaced by a Swiffer and took its own life". A broom suicide by hanging. Hmmm...that just might explain it...

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Graduation Ceremony

On Thursday the school called to inform Miguel that the next night (last night), they would be presenting certificates to the graduates of secundario (junior high).

Miguel studied numerous subjects over almost a year, and passed his last test in the summer. Now he has the papers to show for his hard work.

Next - bachilleres, senior high.

Monday, October 4, 2010

50 pesos

Recently we paid for a service we use several times a year. The man who provides the service has not raised his prices in years. He is a lovely person who is providing support money to the mother of his grandson, because his own son prefers to get drunk rather than fulfill his parental obligations.

When the grandchild is sick, it's a paid passage to Cancun, a 500 peso consultation with the doctor, and then however much is needed to fill the prescription for medication to treat the ill child. I know from personal experience that the medication often costs more than the consultation. Going to the doctor is one thing, following up on the advice is another, especially when there is a shortage of cash.

This man also feeds hungry cats and dogs out of his hard-earned money. Right now, in this slow season for locals, his on-the-side work is poor - few people can afford the service he provides, and so his funds are even tighter. He himself needs dental work, but after paying for kids and animals, and feeding himself, there is little left for luxury. And yet he still tells me that if we need the service but don't have the money, don't worry - he will still come and we can pay when we do have the money.

And so, even though our own funds are tight, when I paid for the service the other day, I also handed him the same 50 peso tip that we've always given him. Normally he would thank me for the tip, but this day he kissed the 50 peso bill and bowed with thanks. He said "this means much more than you know".

That's where he's wrong. Actually, I do know. Slow season, season of 'hambres' (Sept-hambre, Oct-hambre), affects all of us depending on the tourist industry. I've always been a tip-giver, but have never been in the type of work to be a tip-receiver. Until now.

Occasionally our guests leave a token of thanks, and being on the receiving end of a tip, in these difficult financial times for everyone (including our guests), has given me a greater appreciation of the sincere gratitude felt by those I tip. I appreciate the tip, and the thought behind it. More than our guests would ever know.

In fact, perhaps I tip a little more because I understand how much that little bit extra can mean.

50 pesos to us means enough chicken breast for 4 or 5 meals, with scraps fed to the dogs or cats.

50 pesos pays for eggs, tortillas, a tomato, an onion, a pepper...a breakfast meal for a family, with some left over.

50 pesos buys 4 tamales - a meal for an elderly couple.

For many families, 50 pesos pays the monthly water bill.

So there you have it, my two cents...or rather, in these tough times, my 50 pesos.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

BAD Blogger!

That's me...the bad one.

Life has just thrown a lot of stuff my way over the last couple of months, and I haven't had the energy or the motivation to write. At the start of the day I'm catching up with everyone else's blogs and forums, and then the day starts for real and the next time I sit down it's evening and I'm tired.

My dad's health issues are a major concern for us, and he's so far away. I will be making another trip to Norway in a couple of weeks - found a flight on Martinair that means just two flight segments instead of three, although it's still the same number of hours for travel (8 hr layover in Amsterdam on the way over - will find one of those reclining lounges and just rest while I wait for the next flight). The best part was the price - cheaper to fly from Cancun than any airline flies from Canada, and was only $89 each way to upgrade to 'comfort' class, which is something I really need with my sore feet and back. More wiggle room...and on a 9-10 hr flight, I do a lot of wiggling.

After Norway I will have 2 days at home to get both suites ready for 4 female friends arriving at the end of October. Can't do the final makeup until just before they arrive, but can organize everything so it shouldn't take too long to get the rooms ready, since I'll just have a few hours after getting back from Canada.

Yup, I'm going back to Canada in October. Found a frequent flier ticket on American airlines that only uses 25000 points - yeah! I am trying to get my condo ready to rent, hopefully by Dec 1 (moving target). Jen and Miko hope to be moved out in 3 weeks so I will just have my own stuff to figure out.

My flight to Canada leaves Cancun at 6:20 in the morning, which means I have to spend the night before in Cancun. The Marriott Courtyard near the Cancun airport had availability for award nights, so I'll be staying there - for free. Lately I've been staying at the Hilton Garden Inn at the Buffalo airport on my way back to Cancun - also for free. Gotta love all those points I accumulated during my years of work travel - sure coming in handy now.

Miguel's October trip to Oaxaca was canceled thanks to the bankruptcy of Mexicana airlines, but to be honest, it's probably for the best right now - he doesn't really have the time to go, and it's hurricane season - Oaxaca is a long way away if one wants to get back quickly - by bus. Airfare on Aeromexico is about $200 more, and money is very tight - so he says he'll go by bus whenever he goes. We'll see about that - I hate to see him spend 30 hrs on a bus, and I worry a little about safety driving through the mountains. But I know he is worried about his 100-year-old grandfather, so wants to get back there sooner rather than later.

Jen and Miko's baby is due near the end of November, so I have another free ticket to hopefully be there for the birth. It's her first baby and I'm sure my experience as both a mother and a paediatric nurse will come in handy. She has painted my guest bedroom a pretty wedgewood blue - my favorite color, and I can't wait to stay in there.

On the move...My sister is also moving in October - back to Niagara Falls. My niece is in the Niagara region attending university. Suddenly Niagara Falls is the hub of family once again. My dad is moving into nursing care facilities in Norway. The only immediate family not on the move is my brother...someone needs to have stability!

So health issues, money issues, life issues...all makes for boring blogs on my part. Rest assured that our furry family is providing entertainment with their antics...thank goodness for them, they make us laugh and forget our worries for a while.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

More clearing out

Yesterday I pulled another load of books off the shelves. I flipped through each one in case I had tucked some money in there once upon a time. Alas, I didn't find any bills, but I did find:

- the stub of a boarding pass, used as a bookmark. That was in the day when I actually did something on the plane other than zonk out. I haven't used a boarding pass as a bookmark in years - I'm too tired now.

- a shopping list, including groceries. Since the list was left in a book, I probably forgot some of the things on the list. But that's normal, lists are just guidelines - unless they are made for special occasions, in which case, forgetting even one item on the list could ruin the meal or force another run to the grocery store and another temptation to pick up that package of butter tarts that I reluctantly passed by the first time.

- obscure programming code, scribbled during a moment of enlightenment while in the middle of doing something other than programming. Jotted down so I wouldn't forget my brilliant piece of code. Except I probably forgot where I stuck the note...

- a sticker inside a book on C programming, with a picture of a kitten and a quote from the Serenity Prayer
"God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference."
At the bottom of the sticker was a printed section: "This book belongs to..." and I had filled in my name and then underneath I wrote: "and I never want to use this book again!". I have no recollection of being so fed up with that book, so can only imagine when and why I wrote that. Once upon a time I wrote a billing program in the C language that was used to bill the provincial government for anesthesia services. I sold the program to two anesthesiologists, and they happily used the program until the year 2000 was approaching. I warned them that they needed to invest in a 'real' program as I would not be updating my code to accommodate Y2K. By then I was a consultant, not in programming, so the end of my little program spelled the end of my side-line career as a programmer. Adios book - I actually like writing code, so I must have been really tired and frustrated when I wrote that nasty message inside the book. I'm sure someone will get a chuckle out of it when they pick up my old book (which is now sitting at Goodwill).

- an Anne Geddes print which was stuck between books. A print that has been missing for about 12 years, when I had a painter redo Jen's little room while I was off on one of my weekly travels for work. We had searched high and low for that print, and came to the conclusion that the painter or his assistant helped themselves to the print. Nope, they just stuck it somewhere in the bookcase so it wouldn't get splattered with paint, and there it sat until yesterday. I called out to Jen, who was sitting in her office..."remember that Anne Geddes print we could never find?", and she immediately talked about the daisies and three flower pots with babies inside. I can't believe she remember the details of the lost print after all these years. 

Going through old books brought back memories of all those years I depended on computer technology to make a living. A lot of what I did was for personal growth, not income, but it all helped in my overall understanding of how computers 'think'. Programming in BASIC - where I methodically typed in lines of code from a magazine to show the map of the US. The map was also a learning tool - name the state and the state capital...I learned a lot from that little program. Programming in COBOL - where I developed a grid for chess players to use during tournament play. Databases - Access, Paradox, Quattro Pro, and Crystal Reports to query the data. Microsoft Word and Lotus Notes - from the old days of floppy disks and Windows 95.

I am still a book hoarder - my bookshelves in Mexico are lined with personal favorites, but also plenty of technology books, which will one day be outdated. I hate throwing away books, I take everything to Goodwill and let them decide what is worth keeping and what isn't. I guess when I purge in Mexico I'll have to bring a suitcase of books back to Canada to take to Goodwill again. It's the only solution for a pack rat...thinking that our precious things are not trash, but someone else's treasure.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Clearing out

I am in Canada for another week of sorting through my condo and getting rid of everything nobody else wants or that I can't take back to Mexico.

These last two days have been dedicated to my bookcase - mostly loaded with brand new outdated computer books. Oh, the money I spent on these reference books - in some cases an entire book was purchased for the contents of a few pages. Those were the days when I was into programming and databases, and the internet wasn't yet full of free and easy-to-find tips and hints and how-to's for just about anything you want to know.

I'm talking about thousands of dollars here. Surely something is worth something? So I went on e-bay to look up one book that cost me $80 and is still new, with the cd in the back. Selling on e-bay for just over $1.

Ok, so I'm not going to get rich quick by selling my old computer books. In that case, I will take them to Goodwill and they can decide what they want and what they don't want. I hate to see all those books go, but...if they're no good any more, why hold onto them? It's not like I'm going to be using them again.

My bedroom set is another dilemma. It's a lovely solid wood sleigh bed with two large armoires and a night table. Lots of storage, especially for people with tons of sweaters, like I used to have. With tax that set cost me about $6000 about 8 years ago. And unfortunately, it's too big for my daughter's new home.

The plan is to rent my condo unfurnished, but I'm wondering if anyone would like to rent it with just a bedroom set? I will talk to the property management company to see if that is even a good idea. If not, I guess I'll be listing it on Kujiji. Hopefully for more than $1.

I think Jen will be taking the rest of my furniture, except for my wicker chest - she hates wicker. How I'd love to take that down to Isla, but it would probably be a haven for termites, and it's too big to take on a plane anyway. I still toy with the idea of taking my car down there, but won't decide on anything until after my trip here in November, when baby Kyle is supposed to make his appearance.

I have not been as productive as I'd intended to be this trip. Pure exhaustion, a bout of vertigo, a broken tooth, and other distractions have sapped my energy. I just woke up from a 2.5 hr nap, and could go back for more. The weather is great - warm enough that I don't need a jacket, nice and sunny. I should be using this good weather to load up my car with stuff to take to Goodwill. Maybe tomorrow...right now I should go make supper. Darn all the 'shoulds' in my life!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

zero score and 30 years ago

I was pregnant with my daughter Jen. In those days they didn't do ultrasound tests routinely, they just poked around the abdomen, took your weight and blood pressure, and gave you vitamins. I did have one ultrasound done, but that was just because our hospital had new equipment and they needed volunteers so they could demo the equipment to the curious public.

So I volunteered my expanding belly, and even though the technician must have known whether I was having a boy or a girl, the information was top secret. But I could tell I was having a boy because of the way I was carrying the baby, so imagine my surprise when out popped a baby girl! So much for old wives tales and strangers predicting the sex of babies based on the belly of the pregnant woman.

Nowadays, ultrasounds are not only commonly performed on pregnant women, they are performed numerous times throughout the pregnancy. And not only that, there is another type of ultrasound that the pregnant parents can request - a 3-D ultrasound, which gives a sneak preview of the baby while swimming about in the uterus. Jen's pictures of baby Kyle showed him sucking his thumb, yawning, holding onto his feet, and, getting bored with the whole process, falling asleep.

I can't say that the pictures look like a real baby, but I can definitely see the father's features - little Kyle is going to be a miniature Miko, at least in looks. Here's one shot, where you can fingers and toes:

The pointy chin is Jen, but the nose and mouth are all Miko. We are all hoping the disposition will also be more like Jen - a dream baby who slept through the night and was very easy to raise. Time will tell, I guess...little Kyle still has two months to develop before making an appearance in late November.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Where are they?

The last few days have been very hot. So hot you don't want to move. Today I'm doing some stuff around the house, but not one of the animals is bothering me. Here's what they're up to:

Blacky enjoying the shade and gentle breeze

Loco tucked into the corner by the front door, nice and cool

Smokey lying on the back terrace, in the shade, with the breeze coming in under the door

Minina lying under the table on the back terrace, still damp and shady from the morning rinse

Cappuchina on the floor in the living room, under her favorite chair

Maya in the bathroom sink, cool porcelain cradling her body

Luna has the right idea, she's sleeping on the sofa

I think it's nap time for me too!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Zoom Zoom

With 7 furry bodies around our home, inside and out, a common site is a blur of fur as one or more animals run through our field of vision.

While in the kitchen, a blur runs up the stairs. If the blur also makes a thumping noise on the steps, it's Maya - she's heavy and runs like a horse. Often while eating breakfast one of the cats runs past us on the left...up the stairs - to chase a gecko, to claim the chair at the top of the stairs, or to claim the lounge on the top floor. If we look up from down below, often we'll see a little face peering through the railing, checking to see if anyone is in hot pursuit of the blur.

After breakfast Miguel takes the plate of fruit and vegetable scraps to compost in the front garden. Minina knows this routine and will come out of nowhere and run after him, hoping to slip out the front door - there goes a black blur.

Sitting on the couch, a grey blur goes past the front door, and then there is a whine - it's Loco, who spotted (or thought he spotted) an iguana up on the side wall and is running to catch it.

At the side dining room window a big black blur signifies that Blacky is watching an iguana on the back wall.

The white blur is Cappuchina - tearing through the house with Maya in hot pursuit to show her dominance. This blur usually ends with cat cry when Maya takes a swipe.

Open the back door and 3 or 4 furry bodies go out, or come in - a mass of colorful blur, as none of our cats have the same fur.

At night the blur is extended, as the cats run from end to end of the house, playing or chasing each other for fun or to dominate. Usually these blurs end up crashing into dining room chairs. Sometimes the Maya blur flips over the dish of cat food, scattering it all over the floor before she races upstairs.

At bedtime the animals seem to be waiting for some signal from us that it's bedtime. When they detect that signal, they trip over each other trying to get upstairs first. They are all hoping they'll sneak into the bedroom as we enter, but that's a mistake we try hard not to make. Once a cat is under the bed, it's very hard to get it out - it's not worth the effort and the lucky one usually gets to spend the night in our room. At least until I catch the cat looking out the patio door and can round it up before she realizes my intention.

Thursday, September 9, 2010


It started with one house - Miguel's 'beta' partner. Then the owners of the second house wanted references, so we referred them to the owners of the first house. A friend made a recommendation to the owners of a third house. Somehow they've all become linked. Here's how:

The male owner of Casa #2 emailed the female owner of Casa #1 to check references. The female owner of Casa #2 was here on the island., and wanted to figure out the best way to deposit money for Miguel to use to care their home. They were referred to the female owner of Casa #1. She also needed phone numbers to contact Miguel - she got all the numbers we have, landline and cell phones. Then she went home.

The male owner of Casa #1 arrived, and his cell phone isn't registered. No problem, here's one of ours until it can get registered. The male owner of Casa #2 called that phone last night to chat with Miguel. But he reached the male owner of Casa #1 instead. They chatted, and now have plans to meet up when they are both on the island.

The female owners of Casa #3 were here, and wanted to figure out the best way to deposit money for Miguel to use to care their home. They were referred to the female owner of Casa #1. And a shopping trip to Cancun resulted in the accidental purchase of too many bathmats, but maybe the female owner of Casa #2 will buy some - she needs them. They will be in contact.

The female owners of Casa #3 went for dinner with the friend who put them in touch with Miguel, and he picked them up when Miguel was in front of Casa #3 trying to get the golf cart going. It was like a big party on the front lawn - everyone knew each other. Finally they all left with Miguel still working on the cart - took another 10 minutes before he was able to drive off.

Often as we are out driving we come upon apartment guests wandering around. Yesterday it was the guest from Capi's, a long-term guest who is a vet from Vietnam. We picked him up and when I told him our tale of woe about the golf cart, he got excited - he used to work around race courses, he knows a few things about engines, and he came to the probably correct solution of what needs to be done to fix the latest major 'pita' with the cart. So today the cart checks into the mechanic's hospital where the engine will be opened up and cleaned from the inside out.

The male owner of Casa #1 is also a vet from Vietnam. If you followed the above sequence of events, you can tell we'll be offering to put them in touch with each other.

Small island, even in our own tiny circle...

Friday, September 3, 2010

Luna and her plots

Luna is the cat that knows how to pull open the patio screen doors and let herself into the bedroom. She tends to do this in the early hours of the morning if we haven't managed to get her in before we go to bed. When we go up to bed Luna is nowhere around, but she must be lurking and hears us talking because she'll just show up out of the blue. Our animals are fully tuned into us, whether we realize it or not.

Last night I was in the tub and Miguel was just nodding off when Luna popped open the door. But she didn't open it wide enough to get in, and before she got a chance to give it another yank, Miguel hissed at her and scared her away.

Five minutes later Luna returned, and Miguel hissed again. I'm not sure why he chased her away, he should know she'll keep trying all night long - might as well just let her have her way and be done with it.

I went out on the patio to get Luna in, but she was either playing or frightened, and she raced across the terrace and jumped through the slits in the wall over to the neighbor's roof. I knew she'd be back.

I was almost asleep when I heard Miguel hiss again. Luna had come back but once again missed on getting the door open enough to get in on the first try. Off she went again.

I started to think about a cat's mind, and how Luna would be plotting her next attempt. How would she determine how much time to allow for us to fall asleep and make her entry into the bedroom? Just pondering that made me lie awake and keep checking the door to see if she was back. Finally I gave up and fell asleep.

Turns out Luna allowed us to sleep until 5:30 am. I don't know where she spent the night, or why she decided to show up at 5:30. But the morning attempt was successful - we were fully asleep and just one pop and she had the door open and ran in before anyone could even wake up to stop her.

She must have had a busy night because right now she's flaked out on the couch.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

I speak Spanish but not Mexican

Mexican logic, that is.

My first mistake was measuring the windows in inches (Miguel has 'borrowed' my metric measuring tape once again, I only had the old one).

But no problem, I know how to convert. 1 inch=2.54cm

I had my diagrams of doors and windows and cubby holes with the measurements (non-metric) written on the appropriate part of the diagram.

I found some fabric I really liked, and went in search of someone to help me.

She pulled out a piece of paper and proceeded to transcribe the numbers from my diagram. I tried to tell her my numbers were not metric, if she would give me a minute I would do the calculation.

78" x 2.54 = 198.12.  I told her I needed 200 cm. Her eyes almost popped out of her head and she gasped "Wow". She declared she didn't have enough fabric for me - what kind of door was I talking about, anyway?

A double door I said - for a patio. Standard size. Her skeptical look told me she thought I was nuts. 200 m is standard size?

Ah, finally I understood - I was speaking centimeters and she was speaking meters. Wow is right - imagine a door 200 m wide!!

Now that we had that out of the way...were my measurements exact or were they the size of the door? Um - they were the size of the door, and I wanted the curtains to have some fullness so the width of the door needed to be multiplied by 1.5.

She added 10 cm on each side for hems - but did not change the width to give the extra fullness. so I decided to fudge the numbers - tell her the width multiplied by 1.5, more or less. She crossed out some numbers, sighed and chewed on her gum, and worked the calculator once more.

What was the height? More fudging, more calculations and more gum chewing...

What kind of top would I be doing? she asked as she folder her paper to demonstrate a rod pocket. She pointed to some curtains on the wall to show me tab top. I wasn't sure why that really mattered, but I told her I wanted tab top.

While she punched numbers into her calculator and scribbled them onto her paper I converted the remaining measurements. In the end she came up with a number, which was too much. She didn't have that much fabric of the one I'd picked - "go and pick something else", she ordered.

So I picked something else but she still didn't have enough, and then the next one was a different width and she would have to redo all the calculations. More sighs and gum chomping.

After having several of my choices rejected, I finally found something in a pile - but it was dirty. And there wasn't any in the back, pick another fabric. So I picked one that I really wasn't sold on, but she liked it - it was 'limpiacito" (very clean). As we finalized the transaction, she told me the curtains would be ready in 8 days. Oh - I didn't know her pricing was based on her assumption that they were going to make the curtains, that's why she cared about the kind of top I wanted. When she'd asked me I don't know...maybe that was one of those questions she threw at me that I hadn't really understood so I just said "yes". But when she gave me the breakdown to have them made, it was a no-brainer - they would make them.

I would have to wait another 8 minutes for the lady who would make the curtains to say if she could make them on the width rather than the height. If not, she would have to redo her calculations.

So I waited, and longingly went back to visit the fabric I really wanted. I could already see those curtains hanging, they would have been perfect.

Back to see the lady to ask her about making the curtains, and then we realized we hadn't ever accounted for the window. So I didn't have enough money with me. She thought I'd just go ahead with the door, but I didn't want to split up the order like that - what if they didn't have the material for the window when I went back?

I will come back, I told her, but I don't live here, I live in Isla Mujeres, so it might take a while. After spending almost an hour with me, trying to figure out what I was trying to tell her, and denying me this fabric and that, I was leaving without spending a single peso. Oh well.

I will be back, but you can be sure all my diagrams will be in meters, and will be the size of the finished product, not the size of a window or door. And I will wait until I find the fabric that I really like, not settle for one just because it hasn't been dragged all over the floor or it's the same width as the one that was already calculated, or there is enough in stock.

And while I'm there, I might have to take a couple meters of that pretty fabric I saw that I have no idea what I will do with it. But I must have it, if she'll let me.

Monday, August 30, 2010


Do you think she might like another pillow? Maybe behind her back would be comfy, since she's having such a hard time sleeping...

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Island Nature

We both are nature-lovers. Beautiful plants, birds and animals, rocks, sand, the sea - it's all here on this tiny island.

Driving to the market the other morning we came upon the shallow part of Salina Grande loaded with birds making a meal of small fish:

Yesterday I was sweeping the passageway between our house and our neighbor's and I noticed the beautiful display of flowers up at the side of the house. This morning we took our coffee out on the front terrace. Here's what was making the terrace so fragrant.

What more could you want on a Sunday morning? A hammock, a gentle breeze, sweet blossoms, birds chirping, and a great cup of coffee. We didn't get long to enjoy it because Telebodega is bringing a fridge for one of Miguel's clients today and he had to go over to the house to wait for them. No telling when they'll show up, hopefully it won't be too late because I'm home waiting for him to come back for breakfast.

But no matter how the day ends, it started great!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

A plate loaded with carbs

Following up on one of my posts last week, here is a photo of Jen's dinner at Cracker Barrel:

Chicken and Dumplings, which comes with 3 sides. As you can see, Jen ordered macaroni and cheese for all of her sides. What can I say, she's pregnant?! (but I would have done the same thing, so can't blame the baby).

Monday, August 23, 2010

Another use for a broom

One of my first blog posts was about brooms and how they are used and abused here in Mexico. Well, today I found one more use for the old broom.

Miguel was up on the roof and needed the jug of bleach and the camera. He didn't have a rope to throw me. But an old pink broom was hanging around. I threaded the handle of the bleach jug through the broom handle, and then the strap of the camera bag. The brush end of the broom acted as a holder. At full stretch Miguel was just able to grab the other end of the broom and haul everything up.

And he kept the broom up there. I bet he is going to use it to scrub down the walls of the tank. And we'll have to buy another broom to do the job that was being done by the pink broom. Because once a broom has been relocated, it seldom makes its way back home. I hope it enjoys the sunny roof!!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

A Visit to Isla's Prettiest Restaurant

Some of the best food on the island is dished out at places that are not that great to look at. Some are along the beach, some are in back gardens, and some are in the colonias. But I am going to suggest that the prettiest restaurant is right on a corner in downtown Isla. M&J's Restaurant has moved, and I love the look and feel of the new spot. It feels like a sidewalk cafe. And not only is it pretty, it still has the same great food they have been famous for all these years. Good things to look at, great food in my tummy, and a sunny Saturday on Isla - what more could you want?

The colorful cafe-style patio. Plans are in the works to put a shade cover over the patio, with a ceiling fan.

The nostalgia wall - old pictures of how the island used to look. Wish it still looked like that!

This table pulled me over, it was perfect for our meal and it knew it. I love the little man who shakes pepper out of his sombrero.

The wall I couldn't take my eyes off - I love this shade of blue and all the ornaments. So charming!

More colorful tables out on the patio.

My breakfast plate - the Maya crepe with the house potatoes. Delicious!

And Miguel has trained me well...I had to add some of this delicious sauce on top of the crepe. Yum!

M&J's is open for breakfast and lunch - 7 am to 2 pm. They are on the corner of Guerrero and Abosolo, you can't miss it. And...don't miss it!

Friday, August 20, 2010


I hear what you're saying - you like animal stories, and you like pictures. Ok, here you go...

Loco is an only dog right now, as Blacky is still staying around the corner with the neighbors. Loco likes being the only dog, he doesn't have to share the terrace and he gets to be the hero if he barks at strangers.

Two of our cats think Loco is just the best. Minina, our little black cat, spends most of her days out on the back terrace. Sometimes Loco wants to go out there to soak up the sun, and when he shows up, Minina runs right over to him and starts rubbing against him and rolling on the ground at his feet. She licks his ears and grabs his head and peeps at him (Minina has a tiny voice, she doesn't meow, she peeps - 'meep, meep'). Her entire body language says that she worships him (which isn't really true), and she is so happy to see him. Why? I don't know. Inside the house she hardly gives him the time of day.

Loco has been spending more and more time out on the front terrace, which means that Maya doesn't get to see much of him. Maya was raised by Loco, she was only 3 weeks old when we found her and from the first minute she was here Loco had a strange fascination for her. When she was tiny she would spend a lot of time lying up on his body, but now she's too big and heavy. And Loco seems to have lost interest in her - he doesn't give her the time of day, but Maya keeps trying.

Wherever Loco lies, Maya is right there beside him. Under the bed, under the coffee table, along the sofa. She rolls around, licks his feet, chews on his lips, and nibbles his ears. Loco tolerates it for a while, and he won't let any of the other cats hang around him like he does Maya. But finally even he has had enough, so then he just gets up and moves. And Maya follows. Maya wants to be with her dog.

And then there is Cappuchina, the 'only' cat in the sense that none of the other cats accept her so she spends a lot of time on the floor being submissive to all the rest. But she finds her spots of comfort, and seems content despite the hostile environment:

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Home again

My last post was about my favorite things in Canada. That was a week ago. I am now back in Mexico, arrived on the afternoon of Friday the 13th. My trip involved using points - airlines points for the flight, and hotel points for one night at the Hilton Garden Inn, Buffalo Airport, the night before my flight.

Why did I go to Buffalo the night before? Because...1. Jen could not drive me early the next morning, and the booked transportation costs about $90; 2. I have almost 250,000 points with Hilton and due to non-use, they were going to I thought maybe a reward stay would extend the expiration date on the points, and after checking today, I think it did;, and 3. Jen and I are addicted to Cracker Barrel Macaroni and Cheese and going the night before gave us the opportunity to have dinner together and get our fix.

At the restaurant I ordered the Thursday special - turkey dinner, with sides of carrots and hash browns, and an extra side of macaroni and cheese. Jen ordered chicken and dumplings, which comes with 3 sides - and all her sides were...macaroni and cheese! The waitress was a little taken aback, and Jen's plate looked pretty bland with white chicken and dumplings on one side and three servings of macaroni and cheese on the other. She took a picture with her phone, not sure how it turned out.

As we dug in, our waitress stood beside our table and gossiped loudly with the women at the next table. Although we were not in a hurry to eat, Jen wanted to get back before dark. So since we couldn't really chat without talking over the other table, we just ate in eight. Yup, we ate in eight minutes, how we know that is Jen looked at the picture on her phone when we were done and noticed the time stamp. Guess we were so into that macaroni and cheese!!

I spent a relaxing evening in my hotel room with a big flat-screen tv and HGTV. I watched as long as I could keep my eyes half open, and it was hard getting up at 4 am to head to the airport. But I knew I would sleep on the flights, and how lucky I was that the long flight from Philadelphia to Cancun had 3 empty center seats across from me. I moved over to claim the row and curled up for a relaxing sleep.

There was a very short line in Immigration, and still I was scolded by the surly young officer for not going in the line for Mexicans because of my FM3. I told him that I would love to go in that line but a) I'm not Mexican and b) I've been told I cannot use that line (twice I've been directed there by line traffic controllers, and other times I've been directed to the tourist lines - there's no sure thing, it seems, to do it right). He wasn't interested in my explanation, he spoke very softly so I had to ask him to repeat a couple of times, which made him more annoyed with me, but finally he stamped my book and I was free of him.

The suitcases took just a few minutes but the line for customs was ridiculous - winding all along to the back where the luggage carousels are located. I guess they didn't like that much of a line because suddenly the line started moving and as I got closer I saw that they were not xraying the bags, they were just doing the red light/green light thing, like they used to do. So, I got the green light and was free to go - always a relief. I never take more than I'm allowed to take, and I had receipts, but often when they see a single person with 3 bags they question what I'm bringing in and want to take a look (green light means nothing if they really want to take a peek). For this trip I had a couple of bags full of simple junk I had sitting around my condo - certainly of no real value but I didn't feel like trying to explain anything to anyone, so was glad to just get through and be on my way with the ADO bus.

All was well when I finally arrived home. Back into our normal routine.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

My Favorite Things

I'm in Canada, where I was born and raised. Along with spending time with family, I'm here to get my condo cleared out so the place can be rented. An impossible task for a one-week visit, so I'll be back next month.

I went through paperwork from the last 15 years of my professional life, and threw it all away. The flowcharts, the status reports, the assessments, recommendations, custom reports...all gone. Nothing to show for all the years of sacrifice - and for some reason, it felt good to let it all go. I'm past it, I no longer have the edge, the enthusiasm, the energy, the interest. I am done!

When I take a break from the back-breaking labor of hauling all the boxes and bags out of the closet, I am enjoying my favorite Canadian things. Simple things - food, tv, my car, the weather, my lazyboy, and of course, family.

Food - the highlight has to be corn-on-the-cob. Wow, it's sweet, tender, and juicy. The kernels pop when I bite into them, spraying little squirts of juice at the person across the table. Butter drips down my chin as I do my typewriter motion along the cob, leaving no kernel unpopped.

TV - my favorite shows are on HGTV, all the home-buying and renovation shows. I could watch from morning to night, even though I can't relate to the big bucks put down for many of the homes. I just love to look at homes - how they're built, the colors, the furniture, the gardens. Right now I'm watching another favorite show - So You Think You Can Dance. I haven't been following because we don't have this show in Mexico,or if we do I just don't know about it (because I rarely handle the remote control). I love my daughter's tv - it's huge, it's clear - I want one just like it!

My Car - has been completely repaired from the hit by the deer last June, and the inside got a good cleaning to get up all the glass from the shattered window. Other than tires that look a little worn, the car is in great shape. I wish I could take it down to Mexico with a load of stuff that will take multiple trips on an airplane, but it's not practical to have it there because nobody can drive it unless I'm in the car with them. Will have to ponder on what to do about the car.

The weather - has been hot and very pleasant except for Monday, when we went to my brother's for a BBQ. We drove in pouring rain, which backed up traffic more than usual, and forced us to eat indoors. Oh was all delicious anyway. When I come back in September I think we will be having Indian Summer.

My lazyboy - another old 'friend' that will leave my life in the next couple of months. My daughter hates it, and it's pretty worn. A good cleaning would make it a good chair for someone who likes pink/wine colored furniture, so I will either leave it here for tenants or see if one of the charities will pick it up. I sort of miss having a chair like this in Mexico. Maybe one day.

Although I threw away 'stuff' that took the majority of my time during the last 15 years, the good memories came back to life, and I am forever grateful for the opportunities I had and the wonderful people I met. Even though I have no desire to return to that lifestyle, I am not sitting still and waiting to grow old. I've found other things to pique my interest - web design, writing, cooking, social media. I love our home in Mexico, our animals, the food, the climate, and the more relaxed way of life. And I'm about to become a grandmother, so I have all those mother and grandmother moments to look forward to. New favorite things.

So tomorrow I leave - goodbye butter tarts, croissants, corn on the cob, field tomatoes, tv, lazyboy, car - I'll be back in a month, wait for me!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

My first Mexican birthday party

Last week Dona Mari (wife of Roberto and co-owner of La Bruja restaurant) celebrated her birthday. When we were invited we were told the party would start at 4 pm, and we were reminded several days before the party once again. Miguel asked if it was at 5, but they were adamant it was at 4. So, I was ready to go for 4 pm.

But that day Miguel announced that we would leave the house at 4:30, go to buy lottery tickets, swoop around the north loop, head down the east coast, and arrive by 5 pm. I hate being late for anything, and showing up an hour after the 4 pm start time didn't feel right to me, but I deferred to Miguel's experience with these things.

As we pulled up to the curb across from the restaurant, I was dismayed to see the place empty, and Dona Mari walking up the street back to the restaurant. It looked like she had escorted her final guests home. We were late.

But Dona Mari greeted us and invited us in to sit down, and then proceeded to bring out some delicious appetizers. Hot dogs cut up in a hot spicy sauce, flautas, and creamy spaghetti - along with a beer for Miguel and a coke for me. The hot dogs are called something else - salchichas, and this is the first time I've tasted them - they were great!

The flautas were also called something different - cositos, or something like that, but in my world they were flautas. Topped with homemade tomato sauce and sprinkled with cheese - yum! After we had polished off all the appetizers and thought we were done, out came another plate of flautas. We didn't complain, we ate them. I wish they were on the menu - I would order them every time.

At the only other occupied table was a couple from The Netherlands. They watched as plate after plate was brought out to us. The man asked what the hot dogs were, and if they were good, and how to order them. I told him that they were not on the menu, they were special for the occasion of Dona Mari's birthday. He wanted to know how many kisses were customary to bestow upon the birthday girl - he was thinking three, but Miguel said just one. So the next time Dona Mari passed their table, he wished her happy birthday and planted a kiss on her cheek. And don't you know - out came a plate of flautas for them, even though they were not party guests! How generous of the Bruja family.

People started arriving for the party, and I realized that Miguel had been right - in fact, we were quite early. When I thought we were really done, Dona Mari brought out a knife and fork wrapped in a napkin, along with the second plate of flautas. Hmmm...was more to come that we didn't know about? But our drinks were gone and we were full, so we stood to thank them and say "Adios". Oh no, that wouldn't do...the best was yet to come, couldn't we wait a little longer?

So we sat down again, with the Dutch couple watching us continue to be treated like royalty. Out came plates loaded with shrimp ke-bobs, rice, and veggies. I gave my ke-bob to Miguel since I don't eat shrimp, and I was full anyway. Miguel was also full but managed to eat his portion, and we took the other ke-bob home.

Still more...the cake. By now we were truly stuffed, but I ate the cake anyway. Miguel took his piece home too. Dona Mari was busy serving all her guests even though she was supposed to be the guest of honor...she said she wanted to attend to her guests, and that she would relax later.

We finally left 2 hrs later and by then there was standing room only. Salsa music was playing (I wish they played music like that all the time, it gave the place such a great vibe). We drove by later and the place was still full. "See how Mexicans throw a party?", Miguel said. And if you are going to have a party, you'd better plan on having enough food because everyone will show up and expect to eat.

The next day we went by and Dona Mari told us the last guest arrived at 10 pm, and the party went on until 4 am. She was tired but very happy. And I felt honored to be included in her celebration.

I learned something - that if I am going to throw a party and invite Mexicans, I'd better be well-rested in advance, and have a fridge full of food and drinks, and lots of chairs, and plates and silverware and napkins and music and cake. I'm not sure this old body can do it, but if the occasion presents itself, I'm willing to try.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

What a difference a curtain makes!

When I bought my house here, it was just one level, and quite unfinished other than tiled floors and roughed in bathroom and kitchen. The 'master' bedroom was small, and the guest room was even smaller (one of the reasons I built up).

The master bedroom is at the front of the house, and at the time I bought the house, there were no streetlights, no paved roads, no neighbors, no hedges, no front terraces, no walls - nothing to make anyone feel secure sleeping where the window could be viewed from near and far (relatively speaking).

The window was arched, and the arch was at the middle of the wall...too low to leave uncovered. I wondered how to hang curtains for privacy without losing the arch effect. I finally went for floor to ceiling lined curtains, figuring when the curtain was pulled back, the arched window would show its beauty. The curtain material was bought in Cancun and was full of colorful stripes that made the room look a little like a circus tent or a stage. When you wanted to pull the curtain shut, you had to wind up because it was heavy. But it served its purpose, it provided privacy.

Well, now we have a front terrace and a high, dense hedge that blocks out any chance that someone can see us from outside. We don't really need a stage curtain, and I've come to hate it. So yesterday I got the ladder and took down the curtain and put up a half curtain from a couple of white panels I found up in Jen's upper closet when I was looking for something else. I have no idea how long those curtains were there or when I put them there - they were still in the package but showed signs of humidity. But a wash on the gentle cycle and a dry in the sun and wind make them good as new again.

Of course I didn't really have a rod, but I had one of those spring-loaded shower curtain rods, and although it sprung open and fell off more times that I can remember, I finally got it to stay in the window. The curtains are too long so rather than hem them, I just folded them over the rod (which sprung open a few more times while I fussed to get them even).

While I was at it, I cleaned everything in the room and rearranged the bed. I hate the wall - it's rough concrete and gives abrasions if you touch it. Not the best material to have on a bedroom wall, in my opinion, and one day when I can face the mess it will make (and I have the cash), that wall will be smoothed out and given a fresh coat of paint in a pretty color rather than the drab grey.

Once I was done I stood back and was amazed at how nice the room looks compared to how it looked before. Since I don't have a 'before' picture handy, you'll just have to imagine it, but here's the finished result - and the only thing different is the curtain.

Next, new sheets, I think...the circus has left town!