Sunday, March 28, 2010

Thirst for knowledge

I could spend much of my time researching this and that on the internet - there is a ton of information, and much of it is FREE. I like FREE.

I wanted to know how to:
  • make chicken crepes
  • make no-knead bread
  • build a wood pizza oven
  • build a solar oven
  • figure out the breed of cat we have living on the front terrace
  • buy the best pan to make crepes
  • look up Loco's blood disorder
  • etc, etc, etc
The problem with this type of research is that the online document is full of hyperlinks. Links you click on to take you to another page, where you get buried in reading whatever it is that they want to tell you or sell you. I tend to open each link in a new tab or window because I've learned that if I don't, I often forget what I was even trying to look up in the first place. Bookmarking pages only works to a point, because once you get a long list of bookmarks that you didn't take the time to organize when you added the bookmark, it's a daunting list to try to find whatever you bookmarked.

Every now and then I run down the list of my bookmarks. It's like Christmas, as I discover all kinds of great sites I didn't take the time to look at, or I forgot about. And then I go back into that hyperlink cycle once again, fascinated with where it takes me and forgetting I was intending to clean up my bookmarks.

The only solution is a computer crash where you didn't have a backup of your bookmarks. I did have the computer crash, but I also have the backup of my bookmarks from that computer. restore or not to restore? I know what will happen if I import them into my new computer. Bookmark mania once again and another few lost hours digging into newly discovered pages. Oh well. Why not?

Friday, March 26, 2010


Last week we had one rainy day. All day. The cats could not go out on the back terrace, so they got their midday tuna snack in the kitchen. Strange how the three cats who 'get along' - Maya, Smokey, and Minina, faced one way and Luna, who simply tolerates the other cats, was facing the other way...just to show she is really NOT part of the gang.

 This is where we like to start our day - a cup of coffee early in the morning when the only sounds are the birds chirping and the aroma of oleander floats around us.

Cappuchina lives on that front terrace, and is very comfortable joining anyone who plops there.

All our cats are snugglers, but Cappuchina is the queen of snuggling. She slept in the arms of one of the girls in the hammock all afternoon on Sunday. As long as you are there, so is she.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Discovering my hidden Italian genes

I am so happy. We finally have at least two places where I can go to get GREAT food at a great price - food that is not Mexican. After living here for all these years, I sometimes need a change - a break from the chicken that I always eat (since I don't eat seafood, fish, or much pork and almost no beef here).

I have already written about Milagro Pizza - they simply have GREAT pizza, GREAT calzone, and GREAT garlic buds. Last night I went and sat up on the upper balcony waiting for my order of spaghetti and meatballs. I am always leary about ordering spaghetti as I am probably a bit of a spaghetti snob. I grew up in Niagara Falls where the population was about 50% Italian, so great Italian food and bread are part of my soul, and I know the real stuff from the rest.

The meatballs are made onsite with their own spices, and they were good. The spaghetti was good, but maybe a little over cooked (a little starchy or something), and the sauce was a little strong. But it was still good and beats any spaghetti I've had here so you can be sure I'll order it again, and the plate was loaded so I have enough for another meal here at home. Despite the strong wind I enjoyed sitting over the road and watching the traffic while I intermittently read my book. The basket of napkins was weighted down with a garlic head - cute! Just standing in front of the display case makes me hungry - everything looks so good and the fresh peppers, tomatoes, and garlic heads displayed give the place a real Italian feel.

This morning I decided to try Cafe Hidalgo for a crepe. I was very impressed with the little place and found my perfect table - out in the back, a single table with a view of a lovely patio garden and tons of plants. Adorable!

I ordered the crepe with tomatoes, olives, and cheese. The plate came with a side of sliced tomatoes and a glass of carrot fingers. There was a side dish of olive oil with parsley and garlic, and was the perfect thing to dab over the crepe. I ate everything and was stuffed. My drink was cold chocolate milk - not from a box, but made like a smoothie.

On my way out I met the Italian owner who was preparing food behind the counter. She was friendly and I can see she takes pride in her food and her restaurant. I told her the meal was simply delicious, and she was pleased. 

I really was impressed with the quality of the food. And the price? Just 65 pesos, well worth it. You can be sure I will be going back to try some of their other things on the menu - sandwiches, croissants, dessert crepes. I am so happy to find this little gem. My Italian genes (which I don't really have other than through osmosis) are happy little genes. Yum!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Been busy, family was here

In and out and about a lot more than usual, enjoying the family and not having to try to squeeze them in around work. We ate out a bit...

Rolandi's Pizza - everyone other than Miguel and I ordered pizza and all commented that it was not as good as usual. Something about the crust. Miguel had the fish ka-bob and he was very impressed, he loved it. I had the roasted chicken in juices and it was very good. A half chicken is too much for me so I shared it with the people who didn't eat their crust. The girls ordered potato soup as their appetizer, they are addicted to it. The highlight was all the waiters singing happy birthday to my daughter - they put all they have into it.

On Monday we went to Mango Cafe for the Jamaican BBQ, and we all enjoyed the huge meal and the hot chocolate at the end. The owners are very friendly and make time to chat with the guests, never appearing to rush anyone out even though there might be others waiting for a table.

La Bruja - great meal for everyone, as usual. I discovered that pico de gallo makes the chicken empanazada even better, will remember to order that on the side next time.

Mamma Rosa's - had read some good comments on one of the message forums, and some not so good ones on Trip Advisor (should have listened to the ones on Trip Advisor). The food was not bad, it just wasn't what we expected or are used to in Italian food. We did have fun sitting on the street and watching the action. First we had a mariachi play us a couple of songs, and during the second song, a pretty melodic love song, an older local gentleman, maybe a little tipsy or just nostalgic, stood beside my brother and sang along. The mariachi wasn't thrilled about it, but we enjoyed it and the old man talked about how nice the song was and then he went on his way. A bit later the bongo drummers started up at the corner, and we enjoyed that sound and some of the dancing that accompanied it. And finally Louie, the popcorn tricycle old guy came along and sat beside us. We bought popcorn, he showed us a print he carries around, and then his hidden bottle of beer tucked into the back fender of the bike. His toothless smile was priceless. Later we ran into him coming out of Hemmingway's bar - another beer to top off the night, I guess. Happy little man.

Cafe Mogagua - love the creme brulee and just sitting on the sofa and enjoying the pretty space. A belly dancer did her gig all around us, and although she was good, I wasn't sure it really fit with what we were looking for there. But we gave her a tip anyway, she has to make a living.

Bistro Francais - always good, always clean, and always great service. Don't expect tender beef unless you order the filet mignon, but it still tastes good and all the side on the plate, along with the rolls, make it a very nice dinner. Sometimes you just need a baked potato loaded with melted butter and sour cream, right?

We also ate chicken from the rosticeria and Familia Tomas. Miguel spices up the spaghetti sides and they are actually quite delicious then (otherwise the spaghetti is only good as filler, it has little taste).

My sister-in-law treated all us girls to home massages by Mary Ann, which makes it so much nicer to just wrap up in a robe and take a nap. The massages were great, as usual, and it was a great day for it as it was one of those all-day rainy days.

We went to Castilla de Garrafon on their last day, and it was just nice to sit near the shore and listen to the waves. There weren't many other people around at all so it felt like a private beach. I hope they never sell this property as I can just imagine a private hotel taking it over - it is one of the few places outside of town where one can just sit this close to the water and enjoy the pretty view of the bay. We saw some pretty fish - big blue ones that came into shallow water to feed. A nice family day.

Most mornings Miguel cooked breakfast and we devoured that along with a huge bowl of chopped fruit and glasses of fresh orange juice. Coffee up on the third-level terrace or on the front terrace was great. A couple days we sat on the pool terrace and enjoyed the beauty around us.

We picked up chicken salad on a croissant for lunch at Blue Iguana - it was pretty good. We also picked up pizza and a calzone at Milagro Pizza, and it was delicious, I could eat it every day. Guess living here has made me long for some of my normal food from my previous life. Not all the time, but sometimes, it's nice to go back to our roots.

So all the family is gone now - a trip that went by too fast for everyone, and too long before the next one. The weather was pretty cool and windy most days, they didn't get much pool time at all. But they made do, they had a good time despite the weather, and we look forward to 'next' time!


Update on the kittens...

The orange mauled kitten died on Friday morning, not of its injuries but from diarrhea caused by the bacteria in the dogs' mouths. It may be for the best, since it did have some brain damage, and I'm glad it died in the safety of the clinic and not through torture by dogs.

We found another kitten on the way to the clinic to see the orange kitten. It was just lying on the sidewalk, collapsed. We put it in a box and took it to Delfino, and were happy to see it drinking water when we left. Probably just a case of malnutrition and/or exhaustion as it did not appear to be injured.

No sign of Velose when we were at the clinic. We hope she will either be happy living over there or will find her way back to us. She knows how to survive, she has been in the jungle from the time she was a wee baby. I would love to see her back here though - we sort of miss her little face looking in the screen door at us.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Update on Velose and the mauled kitty

I spoke with Delfino last evening. The good news is that the mauled kitty is still alive. The bad news is that it has a brain injury; Delfino wasn't sure how to explain, in English, what that meant other than a month or two of recuperation and rehab in the cage. The clinic is the best place for that kitty, where it will have its best chance to rest, get attention, and be around other kitties. I hope it will have a promising future, will post updates as time goes on.

Velose is still at large in the clinic. Eating and doing well, still eluding capture. Another week, Delfino thinks, and they might be able to bring her home. Actually, as long as she is healthy and happy there, it's ok - maybe she will get tamed, she was only half-wild since we fed her and talked to her and she cried in the door to be fed and played with our cats through the screen. Time will tell.

Our official cat count at the house? Three indoor cats - Minina, Maya, Smokey (who spend their day on the back outdoor terrace where they cannot get out). One indoor/outdoor cat - Luna. One outdoor cat - Cappuchina. Total = 5. And then there's Loco, the one and only dog living here year round. Blacky will be back on March 25 for a couple of months when the other 'owners' leave for the US.

Hopefully no more hungry mouths will show up for a while, the inn is full!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The story of three cats

On Saturday I called Delfino to remind him that he was going to come over and look at the stray siamese cat to see if he might know the owner. Delfino thought he did know the owner, someone who had lost a bunch of cats thanks to a neighbor's poison. The family had hoped that a couple cats had escaped, because their bodies hadn't been found - Cappuchino was one of those cats. Delfino called the 'owner' and provided directions to our home so they could come over and check out the cat.

On Monday the father and daughter came over and although the cat didn't act like it knew them, the father was convinced that it was their cat (the daughter was not convinced and was a little distressed that her cat did not want anything to do with her - in fact, the cat took off while they were there). They were happy to leave the cat with us as they do not have a good place for her, we were all afraid she might be poisoned again, and she is clearly happy in our garden. But they decided to send the mother over to see if she could identify the cat.

Later in the afternoon the family came back, and the mother confirmed that although Cappuchino looked like their cat (and they wanted to believe their cat had survived), it was not quite right. Must be a sibling or cousin - a cat with the same parents but not their cat. Sadly, they left.

And happily for us, Cappuchina (because she is a girl, the "O" turns into an "A") is here to stay. She is a very friendly, affectionate cat and everyone who comes here is greeted by Cappuchina. The cat is still trying to work her way into our home, and she has succeeded by convincing Loco to open the door for her. But we are keeping her outside - our other cats do not like her and Minina frankly goes nuts trying to beat her up through the screen. It is probably just a matter of time, but right now Cappuchina is an outdoor cat, sleeping in the rocking chair on a nice blanket, and jumping into the laps and hammocks when anyone is there to provide the lap.

Velose, the wild kitten living in our garden, got to the age where spaying/neutering became critical. Other stray cats were grabbing her (because Delfino confirmed Velose is a 'she') and acting like they were trying to have sex with the baby cat. So since Delfino didn't need the cage he brought to take Cappuchina away, we decided to try to catch Velose while he was here.

We put some canned food into Velose's dish and placed it inside the cage. We all watched as Velose innocently examined the door of the cage, and then tentatively stepped inside to get the food. Once inside, Miguel quickly jumped up and slammed the door shut, none too soon as little timid Velose turned into a snarling and growling wild cat, thrashing around and very upset about being caught. A blanket placed over the cage calmed the cat a bit, and off she went with Delfino, to be spayed after the weekend. We told Delfino to bring the cat back to us when she was ready to be put back out into the wild.

On Monday evening I called Delfino to find out if he had done the surgery. Yes, but unfortunately as someone was cleaning the cage Velose got out and was now free in the clinic. Because Velose is wild, nobody could catch her (she is named Velose (Speedy) for a reason). Delfino was prepared to just let Velose live there, out in the back, but we really feel bad and want her back where she is familiar and where we provide food and water for her.

So Delfino has to trap Velose, which isn't going to be easy since he has so many other cats there. I rather expect we'll never see Velose again, but I'm still hoping she will come back to us.

We were driving through La Gloria yesterday and about to turn the corner when Miguel spotted two dogs chasing a kitten up the road. He forgot about the turn and drove up to where the kitten was being attacked. Other people were lingering around and watching the two dogs tossing the kitten around, nipping at it, and trying to kill it. Nobody was doing anything to help the kitten.

Miguel got off the cart and crossed the road. As he did that, I sat on the cart and just started yelling at the dogs, which startled one dog and it stopped the attack. But the bulldog kept at it, and the kitten was no longer able to do anything - it lay limp in the middle of the road as motorists drove around and past it - nobody stopping. The dog was not responding to Miguel's attempts to get it to let go of the cat but finally an opening came and he was able to grab the limp kitten.

As I sat on the cart controlling Loco, I noticed a woman up on her balcony of the house beside me. She was watching, and pleading "don't hit it". I asked if it was her kitten - no, it was her dog. My thoughts? Seriously lady - don't hit your dog after what it is doing to the kitten? Frankly, I would like to kill your dog. And I'm not too happy with you for not doing anything to stop your dog. I kept my thoughts to myself.

The dog followed Miguel over to the cart, and afraid of attack on any or all of us, Miguel grabbed the large stick we happened to have in the cart and just held it and yelled over and over at the dog to go away (Vamos!!). I took the kitten from Miguel and laid it on the seat between us - it tried to bite me once, but then just gave up and laid limply on the seat. The dog came over to my side and I took the stick and looked the dog in the eye and also yelled at him. The dog was confused, he knew the cat was somewhere around the cart, but the scent of Loco and us mixed with the scent of the kitten threw him off and he didn't know what to do. Finally Miguel got the cart started and we pulled away.

I really thought the kitten would die, but as we drove off it was still breathing. Miguel headed for Delfino's clinic but I told him it was pointless - it was after hours. We pulled over and called Delfino, who was on his way to Cancun. Delfino gave instructions where to go with the cat if nobody was at the clinic. We drove along and there were times I thought the cat had stopped breathing, but I just gently stroked its head/neck with one finger as I held Loco with the other hand, and when we reached the clinic the kitten was still alive (although it was just lying there limp).

We were happy to see one of Delfino's employees come out of the clinic, and when she came over and I handed her the kitten, it opened its eyes. Since there wasn't any blood, the kitten may just have been in shock from the shaking and tossing - I know another few seconds with those dogs and it would have been over for the kitten. I tried to call Delfino last night to see if the kitten had survived, but he was not answering. Even if the kitten died, at least it wasn't torn apart by dogs. I'll try to get an update today and will post if I do.

Once again, Miguel is my hero. After he came back to the cart with the kitten, he loudly said something, in Spanish to anyone within earshot, about people who don't control their dogs and let them hurt other animals. I hope all those cowards who stood by and watched and did nothing felt some remorse, and maybe next time Miguel's words will come back and they will step up and do the right thing.

Saturday, March 13, 2010


There is a beach party going on many evenings at one of the clubs on Sac Bajo - a boat from Cancun bringing people over for an evening of drinking and partying. The music is loud, the DJ is loud, but the party usually ends at 10 or 11 at the latest. It doesn't really disturb us, but anyone staying in any of the colonias can hear the music and all that is said by the DJ.

The other night as I laid in bed I could hear the DJ droning on and on - seems he just yelled into the microphone for about an hour, and I don't recall hearing any music. At one point I thought I heard a foul word, but decided that couldn't be - they would never say THAT word in public.

But the next night there was no doubt. The DJ once again seemed very demanding of the party-goers - there was no music, just his loud voice yelling at people to do this or that. Perhaps one group wasn't paying attention (WHY would they?), because he singled them out - "What the F&^% are you doing over there?", he yelled into the microphone.

Are you KIDDING me??? EVERYONE in the colonias and Sac Bajo heard that filthy word, spoken in English to a bunch of partyers. Elderly folks, children, families, locals, other tourists - we ALL heard it.

Foul language in public venues is not tolerated here. A few weeks ago we were eating at La Bruja, and a soccer game was on tv. The Mexican broadcaster became overly excited and swore when Mexico missed a goal ("puta madre" - look it up if you want to know what it means) is what he said. He lost his job, and Miguel tells me he was not the first.

The people of this island, many the soft-spoken Maya, are over-run by rude, pushy, disrespectful tourists. The streets are full of golf-cart tourists whooping it up as they race along the streets, often not slowing down for speed-bumps - they think it's funny to slam over them. Hey, it's Mexico! The locals turn the other way and say nothing.

More and more of us foreigners are moving into the colonias - either buying up property or simply renting. The locals accept this different culture and say nothing.

But now we are blasting our disgusting foul language at them and their children. COME ON! I want to plead with the locals to please speak up and stop this! Maybe they don't understand the words or realize that they are vulgar, but for sure their children will repeat them. Heck, the adults might even repeat them - I know Miguel has said some words he doesn't realize are offensive. Words he has heard on tv or in conversation and doesn't really understand the meaning.

Nobody should have to lay in bed at night and listen to this garbage - isn't it enough that we have to hear foul language used in movies? As a foreigner, I'm ashamed that our culture is so disrespectful and thinks it's cool to use foul language in public. It is time for the locals to stop saying nothing and to say SOMETHING. I can only hope they will start to speak up, it's time.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Back where we started from

This afternoon I ordered Pollo a la Mexicana, from the rosticeria. I often order from there, and usually it is a nice young woman's voice on the other end of the phone. She recognizes my voice, and I don't even have to tell her where I live - she mentions the colonia and then the cell phone tower, and the green golf cart. When I confirm that she has the right person, then she asks if I would like a second order of spaghetti in place of the liquid beans...she knows I will say 'yes'.

Today I got a man on the phone, and he had a little trouble with my directions. I told him the name of the colonia, and that we were two houses away from the carpenter, and in front of the cell phone tower. And I told him about the two spaghettis and no beans. He took my name and said the food would be there shortly.

About 20 minutes later the phone rang and it was the man on the phone. Where did I say I lived?, he wanted to know...the delivery person had gone to where they thought we lived and nobody was there. I repeated the previous directions and then threw in the bit about the golf cart, just in case that might help. "Ah", he said, and I could tell that settled it - they now knew where we lived.

Finally the delivery person showed up. He apologized for the confusion and said that his first set of directions weren't very good, the guy didn't tell him about the golf cart (because I hadn't mentioned the golf cart in the first call, but I didn't tell him that). He had only been told about the carpenter and the cell phone tower. He said if he'd been told about the golf cart he would have known exactly where to go, he has passed by here lots of times. Miguel nodded and said, yes - we are the only ones with this style of cart (green with stripes). 

I piped up that I wondered how they would find us when we no longer have the golf cart. The delivery guy pointed to the tower - that's how we'll find you. Miguel nodded in agreement. Hmmm...seems those were the initial directions I gave and they hadn't worked; I didn't bother to point that out to either of them.

I walked into the house chuckling at the illogic. At least the order was right. And once we no longer have the golf cart I guess I can always just say - 'where the green golf cart used to live'...and they will know.

Sunday, March 7, 2010


I love just about any food that includes dough; the kind of dough you work with your hands - pizza, pie, bread.

I make my own pie dough using the same recipe my mother used. The dough is easy to work with your hands, it rolls out easily, and never gets tough no matter how much you mess with it. The dough can be used for dessert pies (cherry (I use the recipe in "Joy of Cooking" and pumpkin (I use the recipe on the "Stokelys" can) are the ones I usually make), but if you leave the brown sugar out, it can also be used for meat pies and quiche.

My efforts at making pizza from scratch involved a bit of a cheat. The local bakeries in the Niagara area sell bags of pizza dough. I would buy a nice squishy lump of dough that I would dump out onto a floured board and stretch and leave to rise and then stretch again to get it to all edges of the pizza pan. My friend Mimi, of pasta and meatballs fame, taught me how to make pizza. It sure beat the package of Chef-Boy-Ar-Dee where all you add is water and then end up with a thin, crusty pizza (which I will admit I actually liked!).

But bread - somehow I could not master the skill of baking good bread. Maybe I'm a lazy kneader, or an impatient riser, or both. Whatever is wrong with me, it meant I could not bake good bread. Well, it tasted good, but it was usually pretty flat. In comes the bread machine and voila, I can now produce nice loaves of tasty bread. My machine will make other kinds of doughs and breads too, and now that I have the time I hope to try some different recipes, including pizza dough.

But the cost of electricity here makes using the bread machine a luxury (our latest bill amounts to over $150/month and this is a house that does not have any heating, and we have not used the fans or a/c thanks to the recent cold spell (if you want to know more about the cold spell, read Islagringo's posts on Facebook). So when guests at the house offered to show me an easy bread recipe, I was all ears.

Within one hour of checking in, Jim was down in my kitchen, towel flung over his shoulder, stirring up a paste of flour, water, yeast, and salt. Cake and pastry flour (brought from Canada) was what I gave him, thinking the other flour I had here would not work well, since my last two attempts with it in the bread machine resulted in flat, heavy bread. Of course, it could have been that all the ingredients were too cold, having just come out of the freezer (I did tell you I am an impatient baker - I should have waited for the ingredients to come to room temperature, but I'm a busy lady (and probably should not be baking bread in that mindset)). Or maybe my flat bread could be because the jar of yeast is years old (but doesn't freezing keep it fresh?).

Anyway, Jim mixed up the ingredients, resulting in a soupy blob of dough that had to sit for 18 hours, he told me. And then we would move onto the next step.

The next morning, as the guests ate breakfast up on the terrace, I took the bowl of slurpy dough up for inspection. Hmmm...pondering on the look of the dough, Jim and his wife decided that they didn't give the dough much hope. But we decided to proceed, so later that day Jim dumped the dough out onto a floured tray and sprinkled and folded until it became something that looked sort of familiar.The dough was then placed on a floured towel and covered and left to rest for another couple of hours (seems the dough and I have a similar need to rest in between work - I took a siesta too).

At 5:30 pm, with the oven and pan pre-heated, the dough was placed in the oven and expected to bake. I took another little rest with the wonderful aroma of baking bread filling the house. I took a couple of peaks through the oven window and saw that the dough was not rising. So what? I was going to eat it no matter what.

Finally, the flat bread was cooling on a rack. Jim declared the bread a failure - should have used the regular flour, he said. But he told me to let it cool for 20 or 30 minutes (geez, I have to wait that long to taste this?), and then we would cut it. I went for the 20 minute wait. I cut the bread, which was holey and soft inside, and crusty outside (like ciabatta bread), and spread with a healthy smear of New Zealand butter (thanks, Doris!). I took the slices up to the terrace where Jim and his wife were enjoying a glass of wine. I guess bread and wine go together - don't they mix that in church during communion?

We all tasted and although the bread did not turn out as Jim wanted it to, it still tasted GREAT. And I have eaten it cold over the last couple of days - in the morning, in the afternoon, and in the evening - whenever I get a little hunger spurt.

So I now know how to make no-knead bread, and the waiting time is not an issue because I don't have to coddle the dough as it sits and siestas. I can't wait to make it again.

I am becoming a master at doughs. The only other kind of dough I wish I could make is cool hard cash.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Just Cats

We went to the new warehouse today to pick up some staples, and Miguel put the stuff in a box about the size a coffee maker would come in. When we got home we unloaded part of the box and left the rest on the kitchen stool - it only contained a couple cans of dog food and a couple of beans.

This evening Maya decided to jump up on the stool, knocking over everything with a crash. So Miguel emptied the box and put it on the floor in the living room. It quickly became a new playground for the cats.

You can't tell, but the box is resting on angle, held up by the bottom flap...

Maya is the queen, while Smokey and Minina look on

Luna came around to bother Maya and she managed to knock out the bottom leaf which scared Maya out of the box. Luna quickly claimed the throne. Maya came back to challenge for it.

By putting her full weight on the top of the box, Maya got her way.