Thursday, December 15, 2011

Oh Happy Day

The golf cart is back! The golf cart is back in business. It was sick for so long - every week for the last 7 weeks. The final gasp (literally - on Monday) brought things to a head. And now it sounds healthy and happy. It worked all day and never complained. It hauled huge bags of laundry back and forth. It hauled the big water jugs. It hauled groceries. And finally, it hauled people - us, Loco, and a family of 4. No stalls, no stutters, no hesitations. Yeah! (don't ask about our finances - gulp).

I love having Chedraui here. I love the parking, the lockers, the selection of food, the happy vibe in the store. Happy, happy people. Feels like we were prisoners and have been given a reprieve. Freedom at last from bad product and limited stock. I was given a shopping list, and I found everything on that list at Chedraui. And for our home I found an oatmeal cookie mix, and little smokies (tiny sausages), and frozen green beans. Happy!

Driving into town today, I passed a man cleaning the street. He had swept up a pile of plant debris and loaded it on the dustpin (one of those with the long handle, great to avoid all the stooping). He had the dustbin in his hand and tried to empty it into a group of plants and the handle broke in his hand, leaving him holding about 4 inches of handle while the dustbin flew into the bushes. It was the grin on his face as it happened that I noticed - he wasn't annoyed, he was amused. He just picked up the shorter dustbin and kept on working. And I drove by and was grinning from ear to ear at the image. Little things amuse me, obviously.

Sitting on the cart this afternoon, waiting for Miguel to buy his lottery tickets, our carpenter came by. We chatted about this and that and it was a nice feeling to be a) recognized and acknowledged, and b) comfortable enough to carry on a conversation - on both sides. I speak pretty good Spanish, and that makes me happy.

Christmas is in the air here - lovely lights, decorated golf carts, singing in the parks. I passed at least two parties where people were sitting in the sidewalk eating cake. One party was at a kindergarden - a little girl was dressed up like a princess. The kids were excited, and the parents were enjoying the cake. The other party was in town - the municipal workers and their families, I think. For a minute I had a lump in my throat, remembering Christmas parties many, many years ago - at Norton company, where my dad worked. We all got dressed up and went to see Santa and get a present, eat cake, and run around the hall. Even when my daughter was young we had employee Christmas parties - used to be at the Skylon tower where the kids could go on rides, see Santa, pick up their gift, and eat cake. I like cake. Especially chocolate. This week I made a chocolate cake, with chocolate icing - I can buy the mix and icing at...CHEDRAUI!

Tonight we checked in guests - a family with two small boys. We left them at La Bruja, but then went back a bit later to give them a card with our contact information. The boys were hanging off one of the great trees that grows across the road from La Bruja - a small park-like area where local kids set up make-believe stores where they pretend to sell mud pies and fake ice cream sundaes. One of the little boys called me Sammy. Why he thought Sammy was my name, I have no idea; other than the "S" at the beginning, we have nothing in common. That made me smile. Actually, I think I've been grinning all day.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

It's best not to ask

We took the golf cart in for an oil change and new filter - more than 3 weeks ago. We also asked the mechanic to fix the brakes, as we could barely stop when going forward down a hill, and could not stop at all when backing out of a sloped driveway. The cart came back, all happy with new oil - a purring motor. The brakes were tight but still much better than they had been.

And we've been paying for it since.

First something happened with the accelerator - we'd be driving along at normal speed and then suddenly the cart would speed up and start back-firing. Miguel would have to keep letting his foot off the gas in order to slow down - resulting in a very jerky ride. On, Off, On, Off - our bodies lurching forward each time. It came to a head the evening we were going out for rounds. We got to the corner on the block next to us, and the brake pedal hit the floor. No brakes, nothing, not even the little bit we'd had before we got them 'repaired'. We went back home and Miguel headed out alone on his moped. Loco was thinking that it was a short tour, he's used to going from one end of the island to the other.

The next day was Sunday and Miguel decided to try to drive the cart again. Still no brakes, but in the daylight, with light traffic, we were able to do our rounds using the jerky motion all the way (on, off, on, off). Our old golf cart didn't have brakes for a while either, and we really didn't need them most of the time. But with this cart and the problem with the accelerator, we needed brakes.

Somehow we managed. Until we got to the curve by the new Chedraui. There, on both sides of the street were groups of teens cheering and handing out candy to passing vehicles. With full acceleration and no brakes, we were dismayed that one of the kids came right up to me as we were passing by and tried to hand me some candies - unaware we were unable to stop or even slow down. Miguel told her to move aside - "no frenos!". She stepped aside and we blew past, backfiring as we went.

That was enough to rattle the nerves, we weren't going to take any more chances. On Monday the mechanic was called to come by and pick up the cart. Obviously he needed the cart at his shop - but how to get it there? He asked "no brakes?", and when I confirmed, he flinched but the next thing I knew I looked out the window and the cart was gone. I also asked him to fix the bucking bronco - the nasty habit the cart had of jumping whenever we took off from a dead start.

And so it came back in a day or so. "All fixed".

Or was it? After a trip out to Garrafon, we drove the carpenter to his place where the cart simply died. Since it was a Sunday, Miguel tried to fix it himself, without success. The next day, heading to Cancun, we sent the mechanic over to fix the cart, and if possible, leave it for us at the ferry. It was so nice to find the cart in the parking lot when we got back, "all fixed".

Until the end of last week, when we were out by the airport and suddenly the headlights went out. We pulled over, and Miguel fiddled with this and with that and finally found that the cable to the headlight switch had broken off and was just dangling. Being the electrician that he is, he found another orphan end and stuck them together and bingo - we had headlights! Off we went, continuing on our journey.

The next morning (Saturday), I was going to the market. I backed up the cart, put the gear in forward, and the cart was dead. Not a sound. Must be something electrical (hint: the headlight cables?). Another day without the cart, another day for no tour for Loco, another day for Miguel to do rounds on his own.

We called the mechanic. Please replace the switch for the ignition (which was in bad shape from kids playing with it), replace the light switch, and fix the electrical problem. By 4 pm the cart was back home. "All fixed".

Sunday the cart was great. Yesterday the cart was great. Until Miguel got a flat tire in the afternoon - but those things happen...sigh...

Today Miguel was out all day with the cart. Tonight was Loco's turn - he hadn't been on the cart since last Friday. I had baked pumpkin pie and had my hands full with dishes of pie to deliver to friends at two locations. I also had hold of Loco's leash. Off we went and made our first delivery. But when we tried to pull out of the driveway, the engine died. We had lights, but no motor.

Are you flipping kidding me? It was all I could do to protect the dish of pie, control Loco who was bouncing around on and off the cart, and hold the flashlight from my cell phone so Miguel could look under the seat. We also called the mechanic - he couldn't come until morning.

So we pushed the cart over to one of the homes Miguel manages. I collected the plate of pie, my jacket, my purse, and with a strong desire to give the cart a swift kick, we left. Miguel walked Loco home and I hailed a cab to make the pie delivery.

And that's all I have to say about it.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Bad memory

This morning I opened a new page to put up a new post. It's now a couple of hours later and I've completely forgotten what I was going to write about. And I can't think of anything interesting to put up instead, so I guess I'll just sign off and call it a day on this one. Hope you all have a great day!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Cookies, cheesecake, and Friendship

About a month ago, during a stormy day, the neighbor's daughter brought us some rice with milk - a wonderful snack here, especially on chilly or rainy days. I have sent them brownies and cake in the past, but I got the idea that I would make some cookies.

I pulled up a toll-house cookie recipe (always remember that Friends episode where they tore their hair out looking for Phoebe's grandmother's secret cookie recipe - with the French accent they didn't figure out until the end that it was toll-house, and right on the package...hahaha).

While searching for the toll-house recipe, I found one for chocolate chip peanut-butter cookies too, and since I happened to have crunchy peanut butter on-hand, I decided to make a batch of those while I was at it.

The cookies all turned out great, but way too many for us. Some went to the neighbors (I put the cookies in the dish they used for the rice with milk - was taught to never return a dish empty (although I sure have, lots of times)). Some cookies were given to Miguel's daughter, some were given to Ed (a client who was here on his own for a month), and some were given to another client (along with some of my home-made lasagna).

The peanut butter chocolate chip cookies were the best, and from now on those are all I'm going to make - we love them and so does everyone else we share them with.

And the lasagna - one of our clients loves lasagna, and so I wanted to share some when I made it. In exchange, they made lasagna a couple of weeks later, and delivered it to the house, along with some gnocchis, a stick of bread and a nice slice of cake with chocolate icing. In exchange I made them some chicken vegetable soup, and sent it over along with some fresh rolls, and a few more cookies from the batch I made that morning.

I've also shared some soup and cookies with the carpenter who has worked so hard the last month. He didn't say anything about the food so I'm not sure he liked it, but I'll continue to share with him anyway, when I make something I think he will enjoy. He lives alone and I know he doesn't cook for himself, other than eggs.

We have exchanged meals with other friends too - they came for breakfast a few months ago for Miguel's chilaquilles (the best in the world). A month or so ago we went to their place for dinner - Italian night - baked ziti, Italian sausage, salad, and lime pie. Delicious!

Ed also came for breakfast one day - once again we did chilaquilles since we know he loves them. Then he took us to Cafe Hidalgo for breakfast, and a couple of weeks later we shared a delicious pizza from Barlito's. We couldn't just have the pizza though, we also shared the Anthony Panini (meatballs made with their own Italian sausage) - the best sandwich in the world.

On Thursday my ex-boss and his new wife came to the island for a day-trip. I took them all over the island and we ended the day with a shared meal on the beach at Sunset Grill. I ordered aztec soup and it was so flavorful - I will definitely go there again for that soup.

Last night we had guests who checked in at one of the homes and they were hungry so they followed us to La Bruja since we were going there anyway. We ended up sitting together and we ordered way too much food but it was all great - they loved it, and we found a lot of common interests and spent a very pleasant time.

Our clients that we exchanged lasagna with just made some cheesecake to share, so our evening rounds may involve a drop-in to pick up the dessert. It will taste great with our coffee later this evening. Now I'm subscribed to daily recipes from, and since I saved a cheesecake recipe that came to my email last week, I'm probably going to make that in exchange.

The recipe today calls for triple-dipped battered chicken. The calorie count is off the wall, but it sounds so good I'm going to have to make it soon. You can be sure I will not be short of people to share it with. Just have to figure out what to make for dessert (I bet peanut butter chocolate chip cookies would be just fine). Although Ed's wife Judy sent me a recipe for a chocolate chip cheese ball - since she's coming next month, I might have to make that and share it with her. She is doing some research so might need to include that dessert as part of her investigations.  ;-)

All this friendship has resulted in widening waistlines, but it's so much fun to share that I think it will be part of our routine now. In fact, I'm almost tempted to suggest a monthly food fest amongst our friends and clients - hosted at one of our homes, depending on who is here and when. We all have at least two things in common - we love Isla Mujeres and we love animals. I guess we also have a third thing in common - we love to eat good food and we are all good cooks (is that four things in common?). We'll see how it all unfolds over time.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

My life as it is today

Golf cart is back - hopefully all is fixed, we'll go out in a bit and take it for a drive. Need to pick up laundry and meet with the owner of one of Miguel's homes.

Soup is made and consumed. Dishes are done. Kitchen shelves are cleaned.

Animals have been fed. Chicken scraps were put out for the street animals.

Bed is made. Laundry is done. Living room is vacuumed.

Referral letter written for former boss. Access databases are updated. Quickbooks is updated. Online banking transactions are done.

Why do I still feel there is so much pending? I rarely make a dent in the clutter, the stuff that needs organizing. On the other hand, I realize my time on this earth to do all that organizing is dwindling, and in the end, who will care that I was organized? That my cds and dvds and photos and books are all neatly catalogued, like in a library. Who lives like that anyway? I think I need to forget all that, and just put stuff away and try to remember where I put it so I can find it if and when I need it. That is always the challenge, remembering where I've put things. So many places to tuck stuff little time to hunt...some things will be lost forever because while I'm looking for them, I'll come across something else that will make me forget what I was doing and that will be that. So that is my future, I guess...staying unorganized and looking for stuff. Oh well...

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Working like a dog

Loco's #1 passion is to go with us on the golf cart; he loves it  more than food. And although he hates water, he doesn't care if it's raining, he still wants to go with us. On Monday and Tuesday it was almost impossible for us to get out to take care of business due to very heavy rain, so we made Loco stay home for most of our trips.

But yesterday, he was not to be denied, he was sitting by the gate patiently waiting for us to get organized and get out on the road. By 9 we left the house, leaving Loco home as we planned to run some quick errands and he would have been in the way. He was not pleased, he tried everything to go with us, including hiding in the garden instead of coming when called. But in the end we had our way and Loco was left behind.

At 11:30 we were picking up laundry when Cablemas called to say they were headed to one of the three houses we'd reported with internet issues. We stopped at the house to pick up the laptop and Miguel wanted to take Loco too. Happy dog!

As we were approaching the first house, we saw the Cablemas truck pulling away - we'd taken too long to get there and they weren't waiting any longer. I tied Loco to the back terrace, making sure he couldn't reach the ledge of the patio and jump off, as he did once before (lucky he didn't hang himself). While we did some things around the house, waiting for Cablemas, Loco sat and watched the lizards playing in the beach plants. Eventually I moved him to the front of the house and attached him to a concrete block so he couldn't run off. He loved that view - the iguanas were right across the street and there was a nice patch of sun on the sidewalk for Loco to bask in.

Finally Cablemas came back, fixed the internet, and we all packed up and headed to the second house.

Loco loves the second house because there is a lizard living somewhere in the house. I suspect it might be in the maid's closet because Loco spent most of his time sniffing under the door. When he got tired of that he stood at the front door and watched the gardens, patiently hoping for a lizard to run around. We were at that house for a good hour trying to get the internet going, but Loco didn't mind.

Finally off to the third house where Loco sat tied to the golf cart. This was a short visit because the internet issue turned out to be a downed cable - nothing the technician could do except report it to the office.

Off to La Bruja for lunch/dinner. Loco has spent hours sitting on the golf cart at La Bruja, he is so patient - maybe because he knows he will usually get a piece of chicken when we are done. Yesterday a child was trying to fly a kite, and that caused Loco some stress as the kite hit the golf cart and he didn't like it. During our meal we got a call that the check-in at another property needed something, so we gobbled down our meal and decided to go straight to the condo rather than drop Loco off at home. We were probably a good half hour at the condo, leaving Loco on the golf cart, where he made himself comfortable on the front seat.

Finally it was time to head home - 4:30 pm. All day on the road for us, and 5 hrs for Loco. Miguel wasted no time flaking out on the bed. I fed the animals and joined Miguel - we both went right to sleep, with Loco resting in his usual place - under the bed.

At 6 we dragged ourselves out of bed to make our final rounds for the evening. I didn't think Loco would be interested but he was right at the door as soon as he heard the jingle of my purse keys. When we finally got home for the night, Loco was done - he flaked out for the rest of the evening.

This morning, guess who was raring to go again?

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Rusty Body

The other day I was walking from one room to the other when my hip caught on the corner of a dresser, just enough to pull the lower body around while the upper body continued forward. Pain shot across the lower back and made me gasp. The pain was from the twist, not the impact itself - I don't even have a bruise, but my muscles are still trying to get themselves sorted out.

The weather is playing with us. Yesterday was sunny and breezy, a gorgeous day to hang laundry on the line. I did three loads - the first two were still flapping in the breeze when I felt sprinkles - which lasted less than a minute. So the third load went out, but an hour later, just before we headed out for evening errands, the skies had that ominous look about them. Not wanting to take a chance, I brought in all the wet laundry, and we headed out.

I had my purse in a plastic garbage bag, and we were wearing our wind-breakers. The bundle in my hand was a wad of laundry bags - I planned to pick up dirty laundry from one of the houses. We got to the east side and the skies opened up. Stinging rain on our faces, quickly soaking us and Loco. We slogged along to the lottery where it rained harder and harder. While waiting for Miguel I wrapped a laundry bag around my legs, and put another one on his seat to keep it dry. When Miguel came back I moved the bag so he could sit down, and his seat was soaked. As were my legs - the laundry bags were not a bit water-repellent, they tricked me.

Miguel asked if I wanted to wait it out, but by this time I was wet, and Loco was looking like he'd been swimming, so we decided to just get on the road and get home. At least on the drive home we were pointed in the opposite direction and the rain was blowing from behind us.

Miguel parked the cart under the neighbor's overhang. I gathered my purse, the laundry bags, the bag of keys, the can of WD-40, and with Loco's leash still in my hand, I tried to get down from the cart. But my foot caught, and I lurched forward. With both hands full a tumble to the pavement would have been disasterous. I staggered a few steps but somehow stayed on my feet. Not without twisting my back muscles though.

I feel like an old lady. Pulling myself up the stairs by the railing. Leaning on the counter while washing dishes. Hobbling from the bed to the bathroom. Turning onto my knees to get myself out of the tub. During the day my body gradually starts working, and I'm able to clean my house, push furniture around, cook, and basically do most of the things I want to do. But the night tightens me up again - nothing wants to bend by the time I get up in the morning. I feel like the tin man in the Wizard of Oz - movement is the oil for my joints, and repose is the rust. I take glycosamine but I don't think it's helping at all - or maybe I'd be much worse if I didn't take it, who knows? Too bad that WD-40 that we carry around won't help my body.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Hurry up and Wait

It seems like we've been waiting for Hurricane Rina for a long time. Last Sunday was when I really started paying attention to the storm which was not even a tropical depression at that point. Forecasts predicted the storm would reach tropical depression status by Tuesday, and never forecast a hurricane.

Well, 19 hrs later and we had a hurricane, cat 1 - projected to become a cat 3 by the time it would hit us on Thursday. We were right in the path, but as experience dictates, on Monday we didn't do anything to prepare for a hurricane. Too soon because of the unpredictability of these things. We did do a mini-prep at one house where the owners had just left and it had to be closed up we took in the outside furniture while we were at it.

Tuesday's forecast was not good - we were still on the direct path for a cat 3 hurricane, and with 8 homes to worry about, it was time to get moving. We also had a check-in at a condo that evening - guests who were not aware of the approaching hurricane, and even worse, no idea what to do (i.e., buy candles and food supplies). So that day four homes were shut up with hurricane shutters or boards, and the check-in guests were given a mini-education on what to expect and how to reach us (or not, and why).

That left the condo, our own two homes, and one other home where the owner was leaving Wednesday morning (on his regularly scheduled flight). The condo management company would deal with the condo units, our homes would be last on the list, so the focus turned to that final home right on the ocean side. We cleared up all possible projectiles (big shells), and put the electronics in a closet inside the home. Later Miguel rounded up a strong helper and they put up some boards - one more house checked off.

By this time yesterday we already knew that the hurricane was downgraded to be a tropical storm by the time it got to us, so preps on our own homes stopped. Even with a tropical storm there will be high winds and water inside the house, and some plants will have damage from the burning winds - but we do not need to worry about boarding up the doors and windows.

I have kept the cats inside for the last couple of days - partly because the furniture they like to rest on out back has been put away, partly because of intermittent drizzle, and partly because I cannot leave the back door open due to mosquitoes. They are getting tired of being inside.

Loco has not enjoyed being out on the front terrace - he can hear thunder off in the distance (or thinks he does). We don't hear anything but Loco hates thunder so if he is outside he crawls into the garden, in a hole by the side wall. He gets himself all tangled in the plants. So he's been inside most of the last few days too - with a lot of time spent under the beds.

Today I took Loco out for a bathroom break. Across the road is where we often toss stale bread, and unwanted leftovers. Today Loco stopped to look at the little pile of plants there, and as I watched, I saw a little mouse picking through the plant debris for bits of food. The mouse was sitting up eating with his front paws, and Loco went right up to it and stuck his nose on its head to see what it was (we joke that Loco needs glasses, he doesn't seem to see really well with objects close up or far away). Surprisingly the mouse was not a bit scared of Loco - it was a Kodak moment, the tiny mouse and the dog with the big black nose pressed against the head of the mouse. Alas, no camera.

The rest of the island is closed up - they would not do that for a tropical storm but until this morning the storm was still a hurricane, so everyone has to be prepared for the worst. Now we no longer expect a hurricane (thank goodness), but we are patiently waiting it out for the winds and blowing rain to hit. The strange part about this particular storm is that it is not going to pass through and be on its way - no, it's going to come over us tonight and tomorrow, and then loop back around and revisit us as a tropical depression. There will be lots of rain over the next few days - tourists will be unhappy with the bad weather, and the islanders will deal with flooded homes and streets. It could have been worse, it could have been a hurricane.

But whatever level of storm it's going to be, I just wish it would get here so we could stop waiting.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Hurricane Rina

Yup, so we are in the midst of hurricane prep. With eight properties to worry about, it's been a busy day and tomorrow promises more of the same, only with worse weather (high winds and blowing rain). For anyone who has never seen hurricane prep on tv, it's hard to understand how difficult it is once the rain and winds come. Can't use power tools outside, and handling big sheets of plywood with the wind is rather a pain. Now that Miguel is a property manager, we will be forced to go out on the golf cart and check on the houses. We will be getting wet, and so will the floors inside the house and all the other houses. Leaves will plug the drains, we'll need to stick a broom handle in them as we can to keep the water from backing up.

The day started with a flat tire - not what we needed when being on the road is critical. So I got that fixed while Miguel was tending to one of the homes. I also went to the bank and picked up cat food and a few other supplies for us. Filled up the golf cart with gas, and took the little red tank to be filled too. I added credit to all our cell phones and charged the two that were in the house. I have not done anything to prepare the house here, will do that tomorrow, and hopefully, if needed, Miguel will get our boards up, at least on the upstairs patio doors. 

But the good news? They are not going to cut the electricity the way they always have in the past. So we may still have light, tv, and internet during the storm - a first for us, and maybe being boarded up once the curfew hits won't be so bad. Will keep you posted via Facebook, as we are able.

Off to bed, with wishes that this storm turns out of our path. We'll know more tomorrow. Night!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Kyle, the amazing kid

What are little boys made of? Frogs and snails and puppy dog's tails. My grandson Kyle is just a happy, smiling, laughing baby most of the time. And he likes turnip!

Kyle is not yet one year old but he is a little boy. Who wouldn't buy a pumpkin from this kid?

Look, it has a handle

and maybe there's something under here?

He is a busy guy when he's up

 Last week he started walking

But like his mom, he is a sleeper and loves his naps, once he gets past the crying to protest it all

I will not see him again for another couple of months, I wonder what he'll be up to by then?

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Animal update

The weather has turned a bit which means our animals are snuggling a little closer these days. We had a nasty storm over the weekend, I think the cats were confined indoors for about 4 days straight - so they were eager to get outside as soon as the weather cleared.

I have started opening the kitchen window near the sink, even though it no longer has a screen (thanks to the late Luna, who was always determined to get inside the house one way or the other). With the back door closed due to the rain and mosquitoes, the cats have been using the window as the means to go in and out on the back terrace. Only Smokey tended to stay outside, but finally she caught on and now she lets herself in and out at whim too.

Maya can't keep track of the cats as much as she'd like - she races through the house and up and down the stairs and watches everyone like a hawk, but the other cats have started retaliating to her heavy rule and she is no longer the queen. The other evening Smokey had Maya crouched under the desk, and then she pounced on top of her - even though Smokey was just playing, it made Maya cry and run away. Maya is only a bully when she can get another cat trying to get away from her. When a cat stands strong, Maya backs away. So although there is always at least one cat spat a day, there are fewer than in the past. I figure they will have to work it out, I'm not going to separate them because they can't get along. The house is big enough for everyone, and generally they all have their favorite spots. But the weather changes that, they are tropical cats and they get cold.

Right now Maya is curled up at Miguel's feet on the couch. Smokey is in the camp chair by the tv, a chair that first was favored by Minina and then Cappuchina - now it's Smokey's spot. Minina likes to lie alongside me, and Cappuchina likes to lie on top of me, and when I won't allow it, she finds another place - like the desk chair. And Loco is either lying along the side of the couch or under the bed, depending on whether we have thunder or not. Blacky is over with her other family, otherwise she'd be stealing any piece of cloth left on the front terrace - she likes to make pillows.

We have some new residents: Tigressa - a tiger-striped female who pretty much hangs out on the front terrace but follows us down the road when we take Loco out to the bathroom. Tigressa walks right in my feet, she has tripped me more than once. And she has a voice - she thinks she should be fed as soon as we open the door in the morning, and any time she hears food hitting the dishes in the kitchen. Tigressa isn't fussy about where she sleeps, as long as it's on the front terrace somewhere...


Tigressa actually thinks she belongs inside like the other cats, and she is quick to walk in when we open the door if we don't get our feet in her way. Tigressa in the house would cause a riot as the other cats hate her (other than Cappuchina, who doesn't mind any other cats who lurk around). We had someone come to the house a couple of weeks ago, and luckily our cats followed us upstairs when we went up to show them the terraces, because when we came back down, Tigressa had pulled open the front screen door and had tucked herself into the far corner of the sofa bench, snuggled on a blanket. She knew she was wrong though, because when we finally spotted her she tried to duck her head, as if she wasn't there. The other cats were still enjoying exploring the spare bedroom upstairs, so we were able to get Tigressa out before we had a war on our hands.

I think Tigressa was abused with her previous owner because she winces when we try to pat her on the head. She likes being touched in other areas but always closes her eyes and ducks when we get near her head, although she is getting much better so I think she has learned that we are not going to hit her. Makes you wonder what animals endure in their little lives, and we're happy to give her a safe, happy home.

There is a black and white male cat who has also sort of moved to the front terrace, although, unlike Tigressa, he spends part of his time out in the jungle. But he shows up for almost every meal - Tigressa gives it away with her howling at the door, so now he officially has a dish of his own. He will not allow us to touch him, he maintains his distance even though he joins in the howling at the door. And he gobbles down his food and then steals Tigressa's food when she isn't looking, but she doesn't seem to mind. We need to trap him though, and get him neutered.

Finally, there is Rabana (Radish - don't ask why - the name is my misuse of another Spanish word and the name stuck) and her boyfriend/brother/friend (we really don't know the relationship). Rabana showed up as a kitten, she had a sibling that disappeared within days of the first day I saw them. She is a small cat but has already had one litter. I wasn't sure if she would survive delivering kittens, or if the kittens would survive, but she raised two babies to a nice size, and then she went into heat again and the kittens disappeared. Not sure if the males who showed up to court Rabana chased them off or what happened because Rabana was an attentive mom and she liked to play with her babies. The last time we saw her with both her babies they were across the road, and then one baby was gone and a few days later the second one was gone. Hard to know what happens out there - dogs, poison, cars, or the kittens might just have wandered off and gotten lost. But because Rabana was pregnant and then nursing, we started putting some food for her across the street.

Rabana quickly learned the sound of the dogs being fed, and figured out that also meant some canned food was going into the dish, so she got braver and braver and patiently waited on the front entrance steps for me to throw her a small blob of food. She would grab the food and run under the gate and out to eat it up.

Rabana is pregnant again, and she has been here long enough now that she joins in with Tigressa and the black/white cat when they cry to be fed. So now when we open the door in the morning there are three sets of eyes eagerly hoping we have food, and we are greeted with a morning song. We still put food across the street for Rabana, because she has a side-kick - a cat that is probably her sibling, and he has suffered a broken leg so is a little handicapped. She allows him to eat with her, but when she was in heat he did not mate with her although he lurked in the background when her other suitors were around. Now that she is no longer in heat the other males have moved on, but the grey cat is still here, and the other morning, after our weekend of wind and rain, it was such a cute sight to see the two cats snuggled on the front seat of the golf cart.

Oh yes - the wind and rain - it was pretty bad, but Loco, who hates thunder and water, insisted on making rounds with us. Luckily, he has a raincoat - in fact, it's better than the ponchos that Miguel and I use. Here we are on our way to check on the houses after the storm...

Miguel's foot, Loco, Sue's foot

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Eating like kings

In this very low of low seasons, with rentals almost non-existent and not enough income to cover expenses, we are eating at home. Which is not a bad thing at all, in fact, it would be fine if we did it all the time - except some days I'm just too beat to cook. If I lived alone it would be fine to open a can of beans or slap together some peanut butter and jam, but Miguel needs something with a little more nutrition than that. So to prevent boredom with eating the same old things, I have been preparing some different meals - mostly successful, but still the odd dud.

Good meals: roasted chicken w/fixings, lasagna (ground my own beef), submarine sandwiches, chicken/vegetable soup, chicken parmesan w/spaghetti (homemade sauce). I've made several loaves of bread, and a couple of batches of bruschetta bread with the day-old bread. Yesterday our neighbor brought us a container of arroz con leche (a great cool-weather drink). For breakfast we've made chilaquilles, Mexican style eggs w/tortillas and bacon, and enjoyed some things bought from Juan - tamales and chili rellenos. For a snack Miguel fried leftover corn tortillas and made some red and green chili sauces, which we ate with the fried tortillas. Yum!

To prepare the delicious meals, I can buy almost everything at various stores here. One tiny pasta we love in the soups I make cannot be found here, so for that I look forward to the Chedraui they are quickly building over on Devil's Curve (by the ball park). I also look forward to buying monterey jack jalapeno cheese, cheddar cheese, sweet pickles, and other things I can't remember right now. But as nice as it will be to have a store here that carries the things I use in cooking, I'm afraid of what it will do to so many of the small stores that people run out of the front of their homes. Not my call, I can only watch the fall-out. I know I'll still be running around the corner at least once a day for the little things we need. And the local market will probably always be a daily stop for fruit and veggies, and fresh chicken.

Now for the duds I've prepared in the last few weeks...

Egg bread - dry as can be with little flavor. Not sure what happened as usually the breads I make taste great. The only thing I did that I've never done is I tried to help the machine pull in all the flour rather than let it work on its own. Used that bread tonight to make salami sandwiches - bleh, good thing the soup was yummy.

Moroccan chicken - too much lime! It called for lemon juice, so I put the same amount of lime juice. It was edible, so I used the leftover pieces in the soup I made a couple of days later. Ewww...we ate it just because we were hungry, but I finally threw the rest out - overwhelming lime taste. Much prefer the soup I usually make.

Plain breaded chicken fingers - no flavor, I should have stuck with my breading for chicken parm.

Potato and macaroni salads - usually something I do well. They were just horrible - maybe it was the mayonnaise. I missed the sweet pickle taste in the potato salad, but I'm not sure that would have helped anyway - the potatoes just didn't have a good taste.

We have been invited to share several meals with friends lately - Bastos, Ballyhoo, and one meal in the home of our friends which was best of all (baked ziti, garlic bread, salad - yum yum). On the recommendation of one of our friends, we tried the crispy chicken up on the boulevard in La Gloria - wow, just like KFC crispy battered chicken, served with very generous helpings of fries and Chinese fried rice. For 35 pesos? Don't know how they do it.

So many meals we have at home are made with very little cost. If we spend more than 200 pesos for both of us on a meal out, we almost always wish we'd just stayed home and cooked. We both grew up learning from great cooks in the family so it's hard to really impress us - but there are a few things we don't prepare at home that we love to order when we eat out: crepes, omelettes, pollo asado, ke-bobs, fish (Miguel), chicken a la Veracruzana, flautas, pizza. But until we hit high season again, we'll be eating most meals at home, and not complaining - it's nutrition at its finest (don't pay attention to the fact it's fried - it tastes great!).

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Wow, a post two days in a row!

It would have been a lovely day except for the sanding and other noise from the boat yard neighbor. They worked until 10 pm last night and I was hopeful they would take today off, but no - Sunday apparently isn't important as a day of rest to my neighbor (religious or non-religious, I still believe that Sunday should be a day for families to enjoy spending time together). I was busy enough with my own tasks that it didn't really bug me until around 1 pm, when I was ready for a shift in the hammock after washing down all the terraces, scrubbing the pool, and washing the downstairs floors. So I ate some soup, gave Loco a bath and then took my own bath, which lately calls for a wrap in my beach towel and a doze in the hammock by the pool afterwards. Due to the noise I did not fall asleep, but I did rest for a while, and then I was hungry.

I changed my mind about what I was going to eat - I really wanted spaghetti but was too lazy to cook, so I took Miguel's hammock to the laundromat. I just discovered that our laundromat does hammocks - I am anxious to see how it comes out as my method of soaking and then washing in the bathtub just doesn't quite get it clean enough (Blacky likes to run her back on it and it is quite soiled where she rubs, and it is a little smelly too). If Miguel's hammock comes out nice, I will take mine in to get freshened up - Tigressa figured out a way to curl up in it when it was folded up and hanging by the window - I have a picture but it's on the camera that went to Oaxaca with Miguel. We love to spend time in the hammocks after breakfast, it is breezy and cool out on that front terrace. Nice, clean hammocks will be a treat.

I decided to take a drive over to the crispy fried chicken take-out place that I learned about last week. It was open! They were waiting for a new pan of rice and some breasts - 10 minutes, they said. So I paid and took a short drive along the coast to kill time. When I got back the woman apologized because she'd given my breast away - a frequent customer had come in and wanted a whole chicken, but she wanted four breasts, one of which was mine. So I had to wait another five minutes, but no big deal - I said to the woman that I didn't think four breasts made a whole chicken, and she laughed and said - it was "un pollo extraordinario" - an extraordinary chicken.

35 pesos bought a large crispy fried breast with wing, fries, and a very generous helping of Chinese fried rice that I absolutely love. It reminds me of KFC chicken, with Burger King fries - not sure how the rice comes in there but I'm glad it does, it somehow makes the meal feel a little more wholesome. They do a booming business with the locals - I really don't know how they do it for that price.

Since eating I have been wasting time doing nothing much, just this and that on the computer. I seem to be stalling on coding the new website, must be because I still don't have it all laid out yet in my head. Time for pen and paper to draw it out, I've learned that as eager as I am to start coding to see the site come to life, I need to start at the drawing board so I have a clear idea of what will go where (not that it doesn't change once I get into it, but since I'm the programmer as well as the customer, I can have as much scope creep as I like).

And yes, the boat guys are still at it - talking, hammering, banging around - and I am so glad we have closed the B&B so I don't have to worry about new guests being disturbed. The boat is almost done, and it's beautiful, but I'm sure another one will come in to take its place once it leaves - that has been the pattern, unfortunately. It's a shame, this used to be a very peaceful street.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Oh, THAT Mirtita's

Today was one of those days that should have gone perfectly smoothly - it was all organized. Only one rental property to worry about as two of the others are owner-occupied right now, and two others are empty. I should have been home by 11 am wondering what to do with my day.

The carpenter said he would be here at 8 am - he's made a new set of feet for a corner shelf unit. Termites ate the first ones, and I am still in the process of treating the wall behind the unit to stop the critters from coming back. We are in a fight to the death - as soon as I see a new trail starting out of one of the four holes they made in the concrete wall, I scrape it down, stick the edge of the scraper in the hole to loosen it up, and give it a squirt of high-power Raid. I really hate using this stuff as I fear for our health, but there's nothing else to do if I want to keep that piece of furniture. The corner unit has been living on the back terrace all week, waiting for new feet and a coat of poison to ruin the taste of the wood (and hopefully kill any termites who dare try to eat it).

Knowing that toxic fumes might be flying around, I closed all the cats off from the downstairs, and left Loco out on the front terrace. At 8:30 I heard "Buenos" outside the gate, meaning the carpenter had arrived. Of course the first thing he asked for was a saw, which Miguel has but not here at this house - who knows where he's left it, probably at the last place he did some work that required a saw. For this reason I have hidden my own screwdriver set and tape measure - two items I am always looking for and can never find, even though Miguel probably has 50 screwdrivers and who knows how many tape measures. Unfortunately I cannot hide a ladder - so I cannot clean the downstairs fans because the ladder I need is never here - it's probably tucked into a shed at one of the houses he manages, whichever one he worked at last. I finally bought a short one (2 steps), just high enough that I can reach the ceiling fans upstairs. Can't believe Miguel had the nerve to suggest borrowing that ladder to take over to the studio apartment so guests could use it (to reach the dvd player he put up way too high, where nobody can reach it to play a dvd...sigh). I put my foot down and refused - told him to lower the dvd player, the way it used to be in the first place. My ladder and tools stay with me or I'll never see them again.

Anyway...the carpenter made do with a chisel and hammer, so it was noisy around here but in the end the new feet look great. We decided to leave the unit outside for the rest of the day, I wanted to make sure it wouldn't cause any harm should the cats decide to check it out - something they always do when something is different in the house. While he was here I had him measure a poster I had printed - I want him to make me a frame. And we had a couple of other houses to visit so he could measure for new screen doors.

Shortly after 10 I was done with the carpenter but then had to go to the condo unit that had a check-out/check-in - I had some supplies for the cleaning lady. I got there about 10:30, the guests were still there, so we chatted a bit. They informed me that the next guest had come to the condo the evening before and asked for a key for today. What?! Why would a guest do that and why would the other guests comply? There are procedures for guests to get the key - from security - when they check-in. So the system failed.

Ok, so the cleaning lady was there, she had what she needed, the new guests were out there somewhere with a key, and the old guests were all set to leave. I took the empty bottle of water and planned to go back later to pick up the laundry. No sooner did I get to the bank when my phone rang - it was the security guard asking me to come back as the new guests had arrived and were asking about a golf cart key (that I knew nothing about). So back I went, and after much confusion (yes, there is a shared golf cart but nobody left a key and nobody said anything about these guests having permission to use the cart), I was handed a key from the office with instructions to tell the guests to return the key before noon tomorrow. But when I got back to the golf cart, there was no sign of the new guests - they'd headed back to their hotel to prepare for check-out there. Nothing to do but go over and try to find them, and I got lucky as they were heading just inside the gate when I got there. They hopped back on the cart, I took them back to the condo, and headed home for breakfast (although it was now noon, so not sure I can really call it that).

Much as I wanted a bath and nap after I ate, I had to go back into town to buy water and a pump and drop it off at the condo. As I was parked in front of Mirtita's grocery store, I got a call from the a/c repair guy whom I'd called earlier to go out to one of the other homes to check out an a/c problem. I became the go-between as the owners don't speak Spanish and he doesn't speak English. He said he needed to put gas into the a/c, so I asked if he needed money to buy the gas (knowing the answer would be 'yes'). He said he was in centro, so since I was there too, rather than have him go all the way to the other end of the island for money, I said I would give him the money and would later collect from the owners. We agreed he would meet me at Mirtita's - he was very close, he said.

I sat and waited for about 10 minutes, feeling uncomfortable because I was not parked in a legal parking spot. No sign of Julio, so I called him again - he still said he was close, to wait for him. I gave him a few more minutes and decided to leave for the condo, and of course he called just seconds after I'd given up my illegal parking spot. I told him where I was going and he said he would meet me there.

Well, I did what I had to do and Julio was not there so I called and said I was leaving and again asked where he was. He said he was waiting for me at Mirtita's. Lucky for him - just as I was about to turn left onto the street leading to Mirtita's, I spotted Julio standing by the curb at the ferry. Hmmm...not exactly Mirtita's to me, lucky I knew what he looked like. So I gave him the money and he said he would call me later so I could translate what he'd done and the cost. It was only as I was driving away and wondering why he was standing there that I realized - he thought I was talking about Mirtita's BAR, and he had been there waiting for me all along while I was sitting and waiting for him around the corner at Mirtitia's STORE. Never the twain would meet except for the cell phone.

When the carpenter came in the morning I was dressed in old clothes, so when we went out I changed into one of Miguel's tshirts sitting in the clothes basket - I was too lazy to run upstairs for my own shirt. I didn't really think anyone was going to see me in that shirt, I thought I was making a quick trip into town and then back home - turns out the whole island saw me as I must have driven through town at least 5 times today. Lucky it was clean and sort of fit me. 

I finally got my bath at 3 pm, and a short nap in the hammock upstairs. Then I made my special soup and ate it with a salami sandwich. At 5 I took Loco for his golf cart tour, dropped off some soup for one of the homeowners, and looked for the carpenter to pay him for today (he wasn't home). I decided to drop Loco back home and go to the supermarket for dog food, and then fill up the gas tank and try the carpenter one more time. I got lucky - the gas tank was almost empty, and the carpenter was home. Now I'm home, it's 7:30, and after I publish this blog I'm going to make some coffee and start coding a new website. I hope nobody else calls or has issues, and tomorrow is Sunday - I might actually get something more done around here.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Downtime was a needed break

Two weeks ago I shut down the blog as I was not writing and it was bothering me to know the blog was sitting out there, ignored by me. I debated what to do with it, I really just wanted to disable it while I took a break, but there is no such thing on Blogger - the only thing I could do was restrict access to the blog. Unfortunately people trying to read the blog received a message saying they no longer had permission to view the blog, and this caused confusion. Sorry, wasn't my intention to shut out anyone specifically, I was just shutting down for a while.

But I'm back, not sure how often - Facebook and the iPad have changed the way I use computer technology. I do not sit at my laptop like I used to, and I hate typing long messages on the iPad - way too many typos that take time to correct. So without the laptop beside me, I'm not inspired to write, even though there are lots of things I think about writing.

To bring you up to date on some things that come to mind...

The sheep that was around the corner happily munching on grass, trees, and other stuff tossed its way has vanished. For a while I was hopeful it was not going to turn into a meal, that someone actually just wanted to give it a nice home where it would earn its keep by keeping the weeds down in the empty lot. Part of me still hopes the sheep was moved to greener pastures, I can't even imagine a slaughter. I should be vegetarian - back up my heart with my stomach and stop eating animals. I don't eat much meat, but I do eat poultry almost every day, and when I buy the chicken at the local market, there is no doubt that the chicken was once a living creature - it lies on the counter with feet and head intact. I try not to think about that, I guess I am a hypocrite.

My heart breaks every time I see the truck delivering the load of pigs to the island. Sometimes they seem to be stacked on top of each other - they are certainly squashed in the truck, and I can't imagine how they must feel as they are shipped to their final destination. I rarely eat pork here, just can't let myself be partly responsible for the deaths of these poor pigs. The very first night I was back from Canada we passed the truck - it is an assault on my spirit and brought tears to the eyes.

The next morning after I returned from Canada we were having breakfast at the loncheria Alexia and Giovanni, in the local market square in town. I spotted a guy heading for the last loncheria - poorly dressed and grubby looking, and I think he was the same guy I'd seen the week before sitting on a rock outside the parking lot at the ferry, vomiting onto the sidewalk. I watched as he approached a guy sitting at the table, thinking he was asking for money. The guy shook his head but the beggar was persistent - finally the restaurant owners intervened and told him to leave.

Miguel had just been served his breakfast and the guy headed to our table. He stopped and asked Miguel for some food. Miguel handed him some hot tortillas, but the guy stood there and I told Miguel that he wanted some of his eggs. So Miguel placed a generous helping of eggs with ham on top of the stack of tortillas, and the guy left. Miguel will never allow anyone to be hungry - he knows what real hunger is all about, and even though I probably have never experienced that kind of hunger, I can only imagine. It was humbling and made me cry, and I wished the guy was around so I could have offered him some of my breakfast once it arrived at the table. But he was gone.

There are very few instances of begging here, and almost always it's for money. There are some people we give to - like the blind guy at the market, because as soon as he gets enough in his hand he goes to the loncheria and orders breakfast. Miguel gets approached a lot as we are out driving around - guys who hit him up for a few pesos so they can buy some beer - sometimes he complies, sometimes he doesn't - I don't know how he decides, but I will never give money to someone I think is just going to buy alcohol. We will give a few pesos to children of one of Miguel's workers - not every time, so they don't come to expect it, but as a treat so they can buy something at the store.

Other kinds of beggars here? CATS! The strays across the street, living in the jungle, have learned the sounds of feeding time here at the house. I put the food in the dog's dish, and when I look up, there are two or three sets of eyes watching me. There are already two other cats living on the front terrace that get regular handouts, but we can't feed the masses, and these strays need to be trapped so they stop producing. I dread the trap though - one of our own cats died in one, and I am forever traumatized and scared to have another accident with that trap. We're working up our nerve.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Changes in the Neighborhood

One thing I find fascinating is how Mexicans continually try to run a business from their home. Our neighbor to the right turned his home into three separate studio apartments. Our neighbor to the left added a boat renovation business. The neighbor beside him decided to build 18 apartment units - they build until he runs out of money, and then it sits, and then it starts up again. The lot across from that neighbor has been fenced for several years, and it looks like they just keep trying to add sand to level out the land - they still have a ways to go.

Around the corner from us, one family tore open the front room and turned it into a kitchen-take-out area, with one table for dining. That business only lasted about a month - long enough for me to try their inexpensive chicken dinner prepared Cuban-style, and then they shut down.

Across the street, an unused lot became a chicken pen, complete with guard dog that barked ferociously when anyone got too close. A month or so ago I noticed that the chickens were gone, but the dog was still there. Last week the dog was running loose, and I worried that it would be a threat to the other animals - but maybe it wasn't a very aggressive guard dog because it didn't seem to bother anyone in the street.

I have to walk past that lot to get to the home where I feed a neighbor's cats. The other day I was passing by and I heard a strange groaning/grunting sort of noise. A strange noise from the guard dog. I looked over and rather than the guard dog, I saw this...

A solitary goat. As I walked by the goat came to the gate for a closer look. It seemed happy, and there is plenty of grass for it to eat. And no guard dog.

Did they put the goat there to keep the grass in order? To provide milk? Or is it there to become a meal one of these days? I don't want to think about it.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Snuggly Cat

Cappuchina is a snuggler. Despite the heat, she loves to be on top of one of us. I usually push her aside but in these two pictures she caught me...

I was busy working on the computer and hadn't paid any attention to the pest on my lap, but when I saw her position, I had to laugh. She was determined to sleep on me, even if most of the space was taken up by the laptop.

This one was taken by Miguel after I gave in to fatigue and crashed on the couch - by the dress I'm wearing I must have been in the middle of housework. Obviously Cappuchina took advantage of the situation...

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Signs from early this morning

Sign that there's a tropical disturbance lurking...


Sign that my neighbor has tenants arriving...

Sign that Miguel is transplanting something...

Sign that the neighbors behind are making noise (the cats are all in hiding)...

Sign there's an iguana living up on the third-level terrace...

Sign that Loco knows where the iguana is hiding...

 Sign that Maya is ready for a nap...

Monday, July 25, 2011

Critter time

The heat brings the critters. Scorpions, spiders, roaches, ants, mosquitoes. Here the scorpions are not that big...

But they are still ugly.

It's been a while since I've seen one of those jumping wolf spiders inside the house, but this evening there was one under my shoe outside the front door.

Roaches fly - there are plant roaches and then the other kind. I've learned not to yawn with an open mouth while riding around on the golf cart during the evenings - don't want to eat one of those! Being beaned in the forehead by an insect going in the opposite direction actually hurts - probably hurts the bug more than me though.

Ants - ahrrrggghhh!!! Big black ants are eating our pool cupboard doors. Normal black ants are falling into the pool. Tiny sugar ants pounce on the tiniest crumb left on the counter, and I don't know how they did this but they got into an unopened bag of icing sugar. The bag still holds air so I know it's sealed, but inside I can see the little devils. Here's a tip: keep anything sweet in the fridge or freezer, and immediately wipe counters. Sugar ants even love little puddles of water, like the sweat that pools under a glass. I wipe them up, I pound them with my fist - there is a never-ending supply of sugar ants at this time of year.

Mosquitoes - after the rain we had a couple of weeks ago, the mosquitoes have made it very hard to take Loco out during dusk. Thankfully they are not bothering us while sleeping, but some nights I've gone to bed wearing repellent perfume because one has invaded the room and I'm allergic to their bites. We had some guests who left behind a nebulizer of mosquito juice, and it really works. I forgot to look for it when we were in Canada, but I have another trip coming up so will have to see if I can get a refill. I also need Solarcaine - the after-bite lotion that takes the itch out - forgot to pick some of that up too (I did have a list, I forgot to check the list while we were there).

One insect that really doesn't bother us here at home but does bother us at some restaurants is the house fly. We have screens on windows and doors, and even though some of the screens have some holes from sharp cat claws swatting at a stray cat through the screen, the flies don't get in.

We have 4 cats in the house. Some mornings we come downstairs and find insect body parts - legs, heads, or even an entire insect that was slaughtered but determined not to be tasty. The other day there was the top half of a gecko on the stairs. Our cats are earning their keep, taking care of invaders while we sleep. I wish they could be trained to go after sugar ants.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Friends & Family - part 1

Our trip to Canada was preceded by a flurry of unplanned events.

First, there was Luna's illness, which meant almost daily trips to the vet clinic as well as at least 4x/day syringe feeding of liquidy food and squirts of Pedialyte. I really hated to ask anyone to take on that responsibility and commitment, but Charlotte made it clear she was more than willing, that she'd do whatever was needed to take care of 'her favorite cat' for us.

In the end it was her husband Jim who did the actual feeding, while Charlotte did all the ancillary activities (preparing the food, cleaning litter boxes, feeding the other cats, taking Luna out to the field to empty her bladder). They both took Luna to the clinic, and they both gave the other cats lots of attention. Cappuchina performed her usual magic on Jim - snuggling up for naps and endearing herself to him.

Second, there was our kitchen project - a longer than anticipated tiling job of the counter areas. The work was originally supposed to be done by the albanil (cement mason) who works with Miguel in property management, but he ended up 'not showing up for work' for three days, so Miguel was forced to pull in another albanil to get the job done before we left.

It was down to the wire, the albanil finished the areas he could at 11 am the morning before we left (it would take another week after our return to finish the rest). With a house full of concrete dust, I pulled in the cleaning ladies to tackle everything in the kitchen while I cleaned the upstairs, packed, and took care of Luna. After they did the kitchen (just breaking a few little glass things when they moved the cupboard back into place), they did the rest of the downstairs as quickly as possible. It wasn't the best cleaning job, but it was more than I ever could have done on my own. Even so, my body was in agony from all the physical work.

What didn't get done? Loco's fur didn't get clipped (and he still sports a wild mop of fur), the golf cart tires never got checked, Charlotte didn't get to 'shadow' me as I went about the daily routine with the house and the animals, and we didn't have time to eat breakfast before leaving. I was supposed to leave printed instructions about Luna and the house, with phone numbers - in the end I said I would email it. Never happened, by the time I got to the computer a couple of days later, Charlotte and Jim had it all under control anyway and I didn't have to send them anything. I got almost daily updates on their comings and goings, and the status of Luna's health.

We are so lucky to have a handful of people we can count on to take care of things here when we want to leave. This last trip was especially difficult - hard to ask anyone to do what was needed for Luna, but Charlotte and Jim did it without complaint. And after we got back, we were able to enjoy a couple of days together even if Luna's death cast a sadness over all of us. Our last evening was especially wonderful - dinner at Mango Cafe,

a drive along the coast while Miguel tended to the homes he manages, where we saw a beautiful double rainbow (we called it Luna's rainbow),

and finally creme brulee and coffee at Cafe Mogagua. We meandered home tired but satisfied, enjoying the lights of the island and the cooling summer breezes.

 There really are no words to describe how much the friendship with Charlotte and Jim means to us, we are very lucky to have them as friends. Thank you, Charlotte and Jim - for everything.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

We lost our sweet Luna

We buried Luna today. She was so sick, she seemed to stabilize with the problem of liver failure but liver cancer filled her abdomen and she developed labored breathing. So sad to lose her but the comfort is in knowing that she had more hands-on loving in her last two months than in all the years she lived with us. Her struggle is over now, hopefully she has moved on to something sweeter.

Friday, June 3, 2011

The latest

So...on Tuesday Miguel and I went to Cancun and with baited breath opened the package from the Canadian Embassy in Mexico City. And there it was, stuck inside his passport - the approved visa for multiple entries into Canada for the next 5 years. Thank you! We don't have to do that paperwork again for 5 years, and maybe by then the silly rule will be reversed. Off to Canada we go, via Westjet - inexpensive flights, and direct to Toronto.

We'll be attending Jen's dance company showcase, babysitting Kyle, going to a family BBQ in Toronto, and maybe visiting a sick uncle in Peterborough. We only have 5 full days, and full they will be...

Last week Luna went 2.5 days without passing urine. It didn't seem to bother her but after the last time when Delfino expressed her bladder and she seemed sore, I decided to take her outside to see what she'd do. Remember, she is more of an outdoor cat anyway, and she doesn't like to use the litter box. She conceded to use it when she was very sick, and I thought maybe since she was feeling better she was holding it until she could get outside.

I put her down in our garden but she promptly slipped through the cat hole in the hedge and crossed the street into the neighbor's empty lot. She plopped herself down and boy did she release her bladder. Then she walked a bit more and found a piece of cardboard to sharpen her claws.

Since then I've taken her out every day to empty her bladder. She does her thing and finds a piece of wood or cardboard to sharpen her claws. She doesn't have much strength so it's pretty funny watching her trying to get her claws into the material, but it makes her happy. She is getting stronger every day.

Yesterday morning at 5 am Luna was up and sitting in front of the patio door, looking out. I put her down in the kitchen and she checked all the food dishes, but then decided nothing appealed. I bought some Whiskas dried food, which she loves but isn't good for cats (bladder stones). She immediately sat and ate 1.5 little pieces, trying to figure out how to make her mouth work (I think after almost 7 weeks of not eating she doesn't remember, or maybe her muscles are weak). Later that afternoon I saw that she'd been into the dish again, so in total she ate about 5 pieces. She is starting to resist the syringe feeding, but until she eats enough to keep her liver going, I have to syringe-feed her - right now it's 5-6 times a day, along with a couple of ml of diluted Pedialyte to finish each feeding.

Despite an xray that indicates she has spots on her liver and lung, she improves every day. So we are going with how she is feeling, and continuing the treatments (liver regeneration meds and B vitamins). Delfino sees her almost every day and is pleased that her jaundice is clearing. Today when I took her out she actually did a little roll in the sand before walking out into the field. Her behavior tells us she is feeling more and more like a normal cat. So we'll see, not sure what the long-term prognosis is, but we're going with the day to day clues.

My bathroom wall decided to let some tiles fall off, so last week we had one of Miguel's workers fixing all the loose areas. We didn't have enough yellow tiles (some broke) so he used some of our other tiles from my pretty ledge upstairs, which actually brought life to that bathroom. Why didn't I do that in the first place? Well, I remember when I went to buy the tile - I had no idea how I wanted to do the bathroom and I was beyond tired of the construction and out of money and just wanted to buy something and get it done. I would do a much better job of it now - and when we have some spare cash, we'll redo the bathroom to make it really pretty.

Since the worker doesn't have any other work, we found another project for him - put a ledge in my kitchen (under the counter), and tile the bottom and sides. Finally I will have a kitchen that can be properly cleaned. Only problem, the worker went on a drinking binge, so we were stuck with material and no worker. Along came another worker that Miguel really likes, he also doesn't have he is doing the project. My kitchen is full of dust, we are forced to eat our meals out (don't mind that!), but all will be done and nice for next week when Charlotte and Jim come to visit.

And my work is picking up...thank you, Greg - I really needed it. I love what I'm doing and that I can do it from my living room couch. Life is getting better bit by bit.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

One Day at a Time

Tired is the best word I can think of to describe our household. The last few weeks have been a merry-go-round of visits with doctors, dentists, and vets.

It started with Loco and his ehrlichiosis (one day I will not have to google this to remember how to spell it). His third bout with this tick-borne disease in the almost 6 years he's been with us. Loco is allergic to the Frontline drops, so the only way to control ticks is to manually go through his fur and pull them off. When I got back from Canada at the beginning of March there was a huge tick on his shoulder, and he was sick. Antibiotics and vitamins made him feel well again. We don't know what his platelet level is, but we know that he is considered clear of the disease. For now, a recurrence is just another infected tick bite away. Luckily, the dog at the corner that was loaded with ticks is no longer around, so Loco seems to be free of ticks. Miguel always blamed that dog for dropping ticks around our house, I guess he was right.

Several weeks ago I noticed that Blacky had a sore eye. When the vet stopped by to check on Luna I asked him to look at the eye, and he said it was dry and told me to start putting antibiotic ointment in the eye. It took several days before I saw the kind of improvement I expected, but after a week of ointment 3 times a day Blacky scratched her eye and it left a string of white tissue hanging in the lower lid. I called Blacky's regular vet, Pepe, who said he would come that evening, but he didn't make it. He finally made it two days later, and was dismayed to find Blacky's cornea was damaged and the pressure in the eye was elevated. He gave Blacky 3 shots, and left me with drops to put in the eye twice a day. The drops helped within a day, Blacky was able to open her eye and it looked better. Since then Pepe has been by every 3 days to give shots and check the eye. The last visit he was able to declare that Blacky will not lose her eye, but it will take about a month for full recovery as eye injuries don't fix themselves overnight.

About 2 months ago I started having pain in my groin and hips when in bed. It got to the point where I could not lie on either side, and eventually I was unable to sleep due to the pain. A trip to the Naval hospital and an orthopedic specialist who ordered xrays revealed a scoliosis (curvature) of the upper spine, and a bad section of the lumbar-sacral spine where two vertebrae were rubbing together (no space between them). This could cause the nerves to be pinched resulting in the pain. Pain medication and anti-inflammatory pills provided relief, not only for the hip and groin pain but also for my feet and other areas that have been bothering me. Good stuff but when I went back after two weeks I asked to be given a different medication because I did not want to become addicted to the medication Tramadol. The doctor wanted me to agree to steroid injection, but since I was not military, it would have to be done in his private clinic. When I said we didn't have any money and he asked "why"?, I felt he was looking at me as a rich foreigner and not prescribing the best therapy for me. Seriously, after only two weeks of medication I should abandon that option and agree to steroid injection? No, sorry. So he prescribed other medication that does not deal quite as well with the pain but is good enough that I can sleep and am not really in much pain. I will not go back to him however, as I don't feel comfortable with him. I will go to my Cancun gynecologist and see who she recommends. As well, my sister in Canada has some ideas and we'll be there in a few weeks, so I'll manage until then.

Miguel developed a sore tooth but a trip to the dentist didn't reveal anything obvious, so he just prescribed antibiotics and anti-inflammatory/pain meds for 7 days. After just 5 days Miguel forgot and bit on a piece of watermelon on the affected tooth, and he just about went through the ceiling from the pain. I urged him to call the dentist right away but he would not call right then - he said he would call 'later'. Well, later was two days later, and then he didn't tell the dentist how much pain he was having, so he accepted the appointment that was given - 5 days later. I bit my tongue as much as I could, but by the time the day of the appointment arrived, Miguel's face was all puffy, he was in extreme pain and unable to sleep. The dentist took xrays this time and found the source of the problem, but with the extensive infection, he could not work on the tooth other than to open up the area to allow drainage. He put in a cotton plug afterwards to keep the open tooth clean, but that night Miguel was in agony and by the next morning his face was even worse. So we made a trip to the Naval hospital and Miguel had a consultation with the dentist there (a different dentist). She prescribed a new antibiotic and changed the cotton plug, which almost immediately reduced the swelling. Finally, after 5 days, Miguel is looking normal and no longer has pain and is in the process of getting the tooth fixed. Since it was a crown (done by a dentist in Cancun that many have highly recommended), I'm not sure what the local dentist will have to do to save the tooth - probably another crown. Meantime Miguel is still on meds that upset his stomach, and I think he learned a lesson - to speak up!

And Luna - we are starting our 6th week with Luna and her liver failure. It's amazing that she is still alive. After my last post, when she came home, it has been day to day. She has been back at the clinic almost every day - for meds, for fluids, for bladder expression. She has had good days, ok days, and bad days. Last week I was ready to stop the treatment, she seemed so weak and wasted and like she no longer cared. I put it to Delfino like this - "can she recover?", and he could not say absolutely No, only that he didn't know. He said her liver might be functioning at 10%, we don't know. So with a slim chance that she might have a chance at survival, we continued the treatment - subcutaneous fluids to prevent dehydration, meds injected with that fluid to help the liver recover, and forced syringe feedings. A day after I was ready to call it quits Luna was much better - washing her face after the feeding and she walked downstairs.

Luna has spent time alone in dark areas, and other days she lies on the couch beside me. She has used the kitty litter, and other days she goes more than 24 hrs without going 'pee' so Delfino expresses her bladder. I have graduated her feedings from mostly broth to a mush of chicken, rice, and carrot - liquid enough that I can use the syringe. I force feed Luna 6 times a day, mostly she accepts it. Over the weekend she went 72 hrs without supplemental subcutateous fluids, and by yesterday morning she was enjoying lying on the terrace and then walked over to me and stood to be petted. She really felt great. But after the visit to the clinic, she wasn't feeling well - she vomited when I tried to feed her, and she is sore. So it's back to slow forcing of mostly liquid broth to a full feeding of mush that I will attempt after I post this. Luna did wash her face again last evening and licked her paw this morning - normal cat behaviour that is a small but rewarding piece of information to tell me how she is feeling.

Luna's liver is huge, she is still very jaundiced, but this disease is a long process and as long as she is not suffering in pain, we will stay the course. I am hoping for a positive outcome for her. It's exhausting, but it is giving Luna a chance.

Miguel needs a visa to visit Canada, a royal pain in the butt - a law put into effect two years ago to deal with a problem with refugees, a patch to fix something that affects all Mexicans wanting to go to Canada...the opposite of the 80-20 rule, but the government won't rescind it, so we have to play along. The documentation is different than the last time we had to do it, but finally everything was put together and sent off via DHL (meaning a trip to Cancun). Unfortunately, that pile of paperwork wasn't enough - the embassy called from Mexico City and wanted more proof of 'ties to Mexico' and 'proof of finances'. So more documentation was sent off (another trip to DHL in Cancun), and now we wait. Honestly, Miguel has been to Canada 4 times before, he always comes back to Mexico, we have no intention of staying in Canada...just LET US VISIT MY DAUGHTER, WILL YOU? Pissed off is the best way I can describe my disgust with this requirement.

I am glad we are into low season. Along with our health issues, the construction of the main road in town has resulted in no water in the hose from early morning to evening. We have to watch how much water we use, and hope the pressure will be enough to fill the tanks during the few hours we actually get water through the hose. Our neighbor has been noisy repairing and moving his boats. The dogs in neighboring colonias are noisy most of the night - not sure what is going on with them. The last guests left 3 days early because they decided they wanted to go to Cuba - I was happy to see them go even though we gave them a refund (they didn't ask for it, said to keep it, but it was the right thing to do since we didn't lose business due to their reservation). I have turned down other requests to stay in our home right now - we need this time more than we need the money (and trust me, we really need the money).

Thursday, May 12, 2011

She's home!

Eating on her own today. Still skinny and weak, but looking very good and interested in life again. Delfino is optimistic!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Update for Today

I had one orange purring kitty in my lap today. Visited Luna at the clinic and without her IV (she disconnected it again), she could be out of the cage to sit with me and enjoy some petting. Apparently she ate a bit last night and this morning, did not eat tonight but she looks good. Fingers crossed.

Monday, May 9, 2011

The situation with Luna

Yes, I have stalled writing anything here because for the last 3 weeks Luna has been seriously ill and I expected that each day would be her last. I posted a lot of details on Facebook during the first week and a half, but then changed course when it became clear that action was needed to help Luna either get better or make her way over the pet rainbow. Luna has liver disease - she's yellow, and some days she's orange. It's a horrible disease and usually fatal for cats. We don't know the cause, it came up suddenly 3 weeks ago when she showed up with obvious abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting. And she was jaundiced. A vet was called.

After a week of monitoring, rest, and a few injections for pain and liver protection, a starving Luna was eager to get back outside. Since she just moped under the bed when forced to stay indoors, the vet said to set her free to see how she did out in the jungle, hoping she would eat geckos or birds and get her liver working again. For the first few days she drank water and then went off until the next day. She was still rejecting any type of food I put in front of her, and in fact, just the smell of food made her vomit the precious water she drank - the only thing keeping her alive. At first she seemed to get stronger and her jaundice improved, and there was hope she would mend herself. Then one day after a nice cuddle in the hammock, she just didn't come back. I let it go for that day and the next, and when we still didn't see her by the following afternoon, I went looking for her.

I went through the jungle near the house, around an abandoned, unfinished building, gently calling her name, never expecting to find her because I was sure she must have died. But amazingly, out of the bottom hole in the building, crawled Luna. She was skin and bones, and crouched as if in incredible pain, and she was very yellow and dehydrated. I was not going to just leave her there, she came out to me so she must not have wanted to be left alone. I brought her home, put her up in the room on the third floor, and called the vet. The message I left was basically that I needed him to come and put her down as she was suffering.

But it was Saturday evening, so the vet did not get my message. All day Sunday Luna laid in her sheltered area in the room, taking sips of water when offered, but otherwise just looking miserable. I didn't expect her to live to Monday morning, but when I went up there to check on her, there she was - looking at me with those yellow eyes. I called Delfino again Monday morning and told him the situation - he said he would come around 2:30.

And he did. Except he picked up Luna and looked her over and said she had hepatitis and rather than put her down, he wanted two days to work her up. Ok, if the vet thinks the cat has a chance, I'm not one to argue, especially when I fully trust the vet to know when the cat is suffering beyond hope.

So...Delfino put Luna on IV. A resident black cat took up watch on top of Luna's cage, and even when Luna was moved to a different cage in a different part of the room, the cat continued to sit on top of her cage. It was like Luna had a friend keeping the faith with her. The IV ran well for a day and a half before Luna removed it during her second night there. She then received subcutaneous fluids, which she disconnected on Wednesday afternoon. So since she was feeling stronger and looking better, Delfino sent her home, hoping she'd eat where she felt comfortable.

But no luck, Luna turned up her nose at everything offered, and just slunk under the bed and camped out. She did drink fresh water when offered, but just for that short time out of the clinic she got orange again. Delfino brought her some Ensure, saying that cats like sweet liquids. Maybe most cats do, but Luna isn't most cats. It was a struggle to force a teaspoon of Ensure into her every two hours.

After the forced feeding I spent some time just sitting with Luna on my lap. She enjoyed stroking around her chin and face, but was so weak she really just wanted to sleep. Delfino said if she was no better by Friday morning to take her back to the clinic. So...back we went.

Delfino restarted the subcutaneous fluids on Friday, and by evening she looked much better. So much better that during the night she disconnected her IV again and broke out of her cage - nobody knows how she did it. I suspect the black cat may have helped her, the two of them poking at the springs from both sides may have succeeded in prying it open.

They were shocked to find Luna missing from her cage on Saturday morning, but finally they found her tucked into a corner in the bathroom, safe and sound. And still refusing to eat, so she went back to the cage where Delfino said they would watch to see how she got out. When I went to see her Saturday evening she had her subcutaneous fluids running, and was in a smaller cage, so I suspect she broke out of the other cage again and they had to put her in a different one.

So there she sits. Her eyes are bright, she 'talks' to me when I speak to her, and she enjoys the physical contact I give her. I visit her twice a day to keep her hopes up (and maybe ours?). She still won't eat although they keep putting food in the cage with her, which she eyes with disgust. I even took a piece of fish to her the other night, thinking she wouldn't be able to resist a taste. But she turned her nose up at that too. She simply does not want to eat, and if you read up on the disease, it is a common problem but one that must be overcome in order for the liver to start working normally again.

The fish smell drove all the other cats in the room nuts - they all started crying and the big black cat that had been Luna's mascot, jumped from the other table, misjudged and smashed its face on the edge of the table. It fell to the ground and its jaw was open - I thought it might have broken the jaw, but maybe it was just displaced because the cat fixed it. One drop of blood on the floor and the cat went off still shaking off the pain from the bad jump.

I've had dreams that Luna died, I am prepared for her to die as I know how serious this disease is for cats, but Luna continues to just sit there and glare at us. She is no longer in pain, she is not suffering other than her dignity at being confined to a cage. Delfino says we just stay the course, and wait for the day she will start to eat again. We shall see, we are all hoping for a recovery for Luna. She's one spunky cat.

This picture was taken a month ago, just one week before Luna became ill.