December 30, 2008

A cave adventure

Lately it’s chilly and windy which means dust accumulating in the window wells and creeping in under the door jambs. Today it has warmed up quite a bit outside, but it is still quite cool in the house with these thick concrete walls. Esperando and crew are busy working on Casa Abeja.

Yesterday we had a nice break from remodeling. For the sake of a kind of romantic and earnest young Mexican man that is a landowner, I will call yesterday’s host of our adventure, Don Diego (Zorro’s counterpart). Well Don Diego had arranged a visit to his family’s ranch for us near Mulege yesterday, which meant a 40 minute ride through the desert across washboarded dirt roads. I still think when I jiggle that much I have to be losing weight. We went to see the cave paintings on his property that were made by people some 10,000 years ago. They must have been thinking in the same manner as those guys from Lascaux in France, as the paintings similarly showed men and animals, mostly deer or fish in ochre or white. For me the stunning piece was of little white handprints grouped together on the wall. But I am getting ahead of myself.

First there was the hike to get to the paintings. It was not far, but it was a little hilly up and down and in some places required climbing on larger boulders. How silly I felt not springing around like some spring lamb like I used to do, but creeping cautiously across the rocks. For this I somewhat blame my hiking boots as my feet are much less flexible in them. We came to a deep clear pond which was fed by spring—how amazing to see water like that in this land of desert. What a joy that pool would be on a hot summer day! Esperando and I both were reminded of Sitting Bull Falls in New Mexico. Alas the stream had to be crossed so we put on our water shoes and waded in water about 2 feet deep, and though we had rolled our jeans up to our knees, the water siphoned the rest of the way up our pant legs. Fortunately it was not icy water and it wasn’t too cold outside. So we walked on a little further and came to where we could view the paintings, in a high cave that was not significantly deep. Sadly much of what must have been there has fallen down over time, but it was still something to see those simple line paintings so alive with the knowledge of those animal’s shape and movement spoken in every turn of the line.

Afterwards we returned to Don Diego’s kitchen, a simple concrete block house still under construction. A simple but delightful meal of tortillas, machacha (shredded beef), and refried beans with some farmer’s cheese (similar to feta) was served to us. Then he gave us a tour of the ranch and we came home with an armful of cilantro, zucchini and radishes and lots of pleasant memories.

December 23, 2008

Santa Rosalia shops for Christmas

Here it is the 23rd of December, almost Christmas. Santa Rosalia is decorated to the hilt with lots of Christmas lights everywhere downtown including the main plaza and side- streets. Mechanical moving reindeer beckon from second stories as do lots of big outdoor inflatable Santa-type balloons including one of Santa flying an airplane. The store merchandise spills over onto tables edging the streets, as well as a guy selling fresh fish and shellfish out of the back of his pickup, a small stand with fresh strawberries (from where?) for sale, and tons of pedestrians crossing the streets as their whims dictate. There is even a sign advertising cockfighting on Christmas day--somehow that seems un-Christian. Traffic creeps along downtown’s 4 major east-west streets, and cross-hatched 14 or so north-south streets (that are only 4 or 5 blocks long). The east-west streets are one-way streets of alternating opposite directions. And the north-south streets follow the same pattern, except that there are two Calle 8’s a block apart both going the same one-way direction.

Just about every other store is women’s clothing or accessories with a few baby’s and men’s shops thrown in, about four major grocery stores (not very big), snow cone and frappe sellers, taco stands and a few stationary/sports combined stores (a rather puzzling combination). I drove downtown with Esperando today as we needed to go to the bank and the liquor store and parking is all but non-existent anywhere this close to Christmas. I drove around the block which actually ends up being about 10 blocks because of intervening one-way streets, then found a lucky parking place to pull into thinking to give him a bit of time to get in and out of the instant teller. What I hadn’t counted on was the continuous stream of traffic that wouldn’t let me back out onto the street for about 10 minutes. By the time I maneuvered back to where I could turn back up the street he was on, the policewoman directing traffic held me up another 5 minutes. So the poor man had been standing waiting for me much longer than I had intended.

Next stop was the liquor store, normally in a not too busy location. I found a parking spot in front of a nursery school which had let out for the day, just around the block. I spent 10 minutes wrestling the truck into a parallel park, called Esperando and said call me when you are ready. I am ready now he said. So I unparked and drove around the block to pick him up. Theoretically we are all stocked up and set for the holidays.

As tradition for us dictates, tomorrow night we will have guacamole and chips, posole, New Mexico style enchiladas, and tamales. I made a lucky find of beautiful dried red Anaheim type chiles, so we will enrich the good canned enchilada sauce they have here with that too. Christmas morning will start with a spinach and cheese strata. We are having a turkey and the all trimmings on Christmas. We will be sharing Christmas with Flaming Mike and his wife we are enroute to San Diego the next day. I hope we don’t all freeze to death opening gifts in the house, since we do not have heating. Who would be believe that I could be wrapped up in my warmest clothes because it is 62F inside and a balmy 74F outside in the sun. Praise God for the electric blanket that keeps me warm at night!

December 18, 2008

Home owners

It’s ours now—Casa Abeja—sadly the bees had to go, but it will still always be Casa Abeja in their memory. We own it lock, stock and barrel. Its either a great Mexican investment property or we’ve squandered our hard earned cash (its sort of like looking at the glass as half full or half empty). Anyway you look at it its not going to be one of those houses that is ready to just move right into.

Yesterday as we were walking around it a nicely dressed older Mexican lady came over and started taking pictures of it. Was she trying to document it, does she want to show how we aren’t going to keep with its heritage nature (which we are) so the government can sue us, is she taking photos for her friends or the previous owners? We didn’t think to ask her, but it seemed rather strange to us at the time, especially since she didn’t even speak to us and was doing this right in front of our faces. I would have to say she wasn’t especially friendly. We are really curious what that was all about.

The owners came up from La Paz to clean out the rest of their stuff and get their money. When we walked through the house yesterday we found the previous owner had forgotten to remove a lot of stuff including religious poster art, an old brass crucifix by the window, a cowboy hat, some men’s shirts, an Eskimo cooler in the kitchen and a child’s toy. They were surprised that anything was left as they thought they had emptied the house. I guess they weren’t very attached to any of this stuff or maybe just couldn’t see it for the shock of finally selling the house.
Esperando had it fumigated yesterday morning for creepy-crawlies and the fire department hosed out the beehive. The Lads removed the large dead tree that was growing right against the east wall. All this has happened in the space of 4 hours. Next on the agenda was the removal of the old water tank. Esperando and the Lads borrowed a forklift to pull the old concrete water tank off its tipsy stand. This morning was the big day. The forklift came hauling down the road with Esperando driving. Next was the sawing of attached piping and securing the tank with a rope. I was sure one of them would get crushed while the pipes were being sawed through. The nimble Gardener climbed up on the roof and over to the lift which had been raised level with the tank. Flaming Mike had tied a rope around the tank already, so the Gardener tied the knot onto the liftblade and we were in business!! This is only the beginning. Next will be hauling away a yard full of large trash such as an ancient refrigerator, the old water tank and stand, and other large metal debris and garden trash.

How will we keep our hands off bringing it to life? It’s his nature and mine to want to fix things up, but is now the right time with the economy so sour? It needs re-roofing, new exterior doors, entire rewiring, plumbing, bathroom and kitchen remodel, not to mention cleaning, polishing, stripping interior floor, drywalling interior walls, painting interior and exterior walls, and the list goes on.

December 17, 2008

Yet another cat

We adopted another new street kitten a few days ago. She is much younger than Frida was when we adopted her. One day Señor Mustache came walking into the yard with two pretty kittens. I thought it really odd that a male cat would escort kittens to the house, Penelope the white cat I assumed was the mother since she had been pregnant, even though she seemed rather standoffish. After several days of deliberation, Penelope’s continued hands-off approach to rearing children, and certain physical clues on the father’s side (such as missing male anatomy parts and a glimpse of nursing nipples) it was determined that Señor Mustache was actually Señora Mustache. Since Señora is a skittish feral, a hands-on approach to the subject was not advisable.

Both kittens were quite timid: there was a white one with some calico spots and a striped tail; and a fuzzy tortoiseshell with disheveled fur and a deformed corkscrew tail.

Esperando put out the cat crate so our subjects would be used to it before the door snapped shut on the wild life they had known, and we began putting food in the crate. After about two days of this the white kitten would race into the crate, the little tortoiseshell would hang back frightened, but eventually follow in along with mom. Esperando considered we should carry out the act on a Saturday, but I said no let’s wait for Sunday. As we came back up the hill from our Sunday walk we saw the little white kitty lying dead in the road—a car had run over her. Now if I had done as Esperando suggested on Saturday, the little white kitty might have stood a chance at a better life. Ah well, as the screw turns.

Sunday we caught Poppy (short for Little Poppet). Again as before Winnie came to the crate and calmed her down, but unlike before Winnie had not been watching her from the window for an extended period of time. Winnie followed all the same moves he did with Frida, went in her room, hung out, showed her where to eat, showed her the litter box, but did not seem committed to enjoying her company as he had to Frida’s. This morning I thought she might like the company of another cat so I brought Winnie in, was petting the kitten then put her down, she skittled over to Winnie showing some signs of courage other than just huddling in the sink which she has been doing every since we snatched her—and he hissed at her and raised his paw to bat her. He was going to leap on her and attack, but I intervened. It was terrible blow to my taming program. She zipped across the floor to go and cower in a corner. You tell me why a cat likes one cat and not another one?

December 14, 2008

Feathery friends

One of the natural treasures we have down here, in addition to an abundance of cactus and Mexican food, is hummingbirds. When we first got here we put up hummingbird feeders but no one ever came. (It is sort of like having a garden party but no guests arrive.) We have tons of hibiscus bushes in the yard which drew the hummingbirds like magnets so we would see them everyday, but not at our feeders.

The first hummingbirds that we saw daily during the hot season, Xanthus hummingbirds, did not seem remarkable to look at since they were not boldly colored and didn’t seem to be very personable. They are a native non-migratory species. Oh well, we said, maybe when the migrating hummingbirds come from up north we will have knowledgeable birds who understand these things. Maybe they will show these Xanthus dudes what it’s all about. One day I was standing next to a feeder when a Rubythroat showed up—we like to think it was the first one in town. The bird actually did a double take, like wait a minute I’ve been here every year and there was NEVER a feeder here, HOW amazing!! It zoomed right up to the feeder and looked at it, then moved back a foot and looked at it, then it zoomed back and started feeding. And that was the beginning of the famous Santa Rosalia turf wars.

More hummingbirds showed up and started contesting ownership of our two feeders which are about 15 feet apart. They would spiral up 50 feet in the air using their beaks against each other like Jeddi swords. This went on for a while, then one day a swarm of bees and a beautiful Streak-backed Oriole showed up to partake. The hummingbirds were overwhelmed by the bees as each feeder would have a mass of about 50 bees on it who could effectively keep them away. The bees would suck the feeder dry in one day. The oriole would sit on the feeder and parry bees off with its beak for about a minute, before it would also be driven off. But it was persistent and would come back right away.

Our most recent hummingbird guest is Costa’s hummingbird, and a beauty it is too. A tiny little guy with bright purple bib and brilliant green elsewhere. It turns out Costa’s hummingbird is limited to the Baja peninsula and a small area around Guaymas on the mainland. In the last few days the bees have suddenly and mysteriously disappeared, so we are back to two hummingbird sentinels guarding each feeder and driving enemy combatants away.

December 5, 2008

The tale of the stolen soldier

You're traveling through another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind. A journey into a wondrous land whose boundaries are that of imagination. That's the signpost up ahead— your next stop, it’s the location of the Stolen Soldier in the Twilight Zone— da, da, da da— da da da da.

Esperando and I took off at 10 am on a sunny day to go to Loreto and pickup visitors at the airport. We had a pleasant day for our 3-hour drive. A bit out of Mulege (about an hour into our trip) on the opposite side of the highway we approached a humvee full of soldiers, with a foot soldier in front of them who held a rifle and was scouring the bushes to the side of the road. The main dude flagged us down and said do you speak Spanish, did you see the soldier? Esperando thought he was referring to the one with the rifle and wondering why we didn’t pull over. We both said yes, there he is in front. No, no, said the officer, another soldier further ahead. Esperando said, oh have you lost one? No said the officer, one of our soldiers was stolen. Stolen? Yes, stolen accidentally. The soldiers were at the checkpoint (still an hour and 15 minutes further ahead of us, where you are alternatively waved through or they ask you to get out of the vehicle so they can inspect it) and this soldier was inside a trailer inspecting it when the trailer door accidentally got shut with him still inside. The trailer took off with him in it. They didn’t realize until later that he was missing. The officer looked quite sheepish. No we didn’t see any soldier, we said.

We got back on the highway and continued our drive. Periodically one or the other of us would burst into laughter. We considered all kinds of variations on the ending of this soldier’s adventures. We discussed what the gringos would think when they arrived at their destination and found a soldier was in their trailer, would they get all the way to the border—would they actually get to their home before they opened the trailer and discovered they had accidentally kidnapped someone from the Mexican army? How do you deal with that? Boy, I said, I wish we knew how this one ended, it’s just so amazing. I thought of the news article I read several weeks ago where some Mexican army soldiers got arrested in the U.S. by the border patrol when they accidentally got lost on the wrong side of the border while on patrol.

We traveled on for another 45 minutes, and there on our side of the highway was a young soldier in fatigues trying to hitch a ride. He looked about 16 years old. There he is! we cried. We pulled over to pick him up and asked, are you the lost soldier? Oh yes, he said! Your comrades are way up the road looking for you. We asked him what happened. Well it turns out the trailer was a big refrigerated semi full of chile peppers. He said it was really cold inside and he was sure he would freeze to death. He pounded on the sides of the truck but the driver couldn’t hear him over the highway noise. Finally the trucker encountered some problems and stopped the truck, and then our soldier started pounding on the floor of the truck. The man wondered why his chiles were making such a racquet and opened the trailer door to find our soldier inside. Now our soldier took out across the desert as a shortcut (and probably this is why his comrades missed seeing him) then came out to the highway and starting hitching. No one would give him a ride until we came along. It’s a good thing we did come along, as it was 30 minutes of hard driving to the checkpoint and would have been a veeeeeeeeery long walk. We dropped him off, much the joy of the other soldiers who had stayed to man the checkpoint. Boy I thought we’ve really earned some brownie points with this one—it should be like having a ‘get out of jail free’ card coming back when they recognize our vehicle and thank us for the favor and wave us on through from this time forward to evermore. Guess what? No one recognized us on the way back, it was all a new crew manning the checkpoint. Everyday—just a new adventure down here.

December 2, 2008

Ray's Place at La Hacienda

You're traveling through another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind. A journey into a wondrous land whose boundaries are that of imagination. That's the signpost up ahead— your next stop, its Ray’s Place in the Twilight Zone! Do do do do, do do do do—

Imagine you are living in Santa Rosalia, Baja California Sur. Twice you have driven an hour away and then down five miles of winding dusty bouncy dirt roads out into the middle of nowhere in a pasture to go eat at Ray’s Place which is closed. It doesn’t look very prepossessing 50 feet away from the chained entrance that your car can’t cross over, you think you are looking at someone’s home with a kind of shabby restaurant on top. You know the owner is Cuban and you think they serve Cuban food, which would be a novelty in this land of milk and honey. You keep hearing rumors about how great it is.

You are invited by your host, Mr. Rolex, to meet him for dinner at Ray’s Place. You arrive 5 minutes early because you are stupid gringos and are always early to everything. But you are just in time for the sunset which is setting the rocky and cactus studded mountains around you on fire with its last glowing rays. Ray is standing at the top of the wooden stairs on the second story welcoming you in with a big Hollywood smile, “Welcome my friends to Ray’s Place, come in, come in.” Suddenly you are a very different place, it is all lit up with white Christmas lights—you are transported to the tropics in a really beautifully constructed cabana with a lovely second story view. You go sit at the bar and find out Mr. Rolex brought a bottle of very expensive Tequila up some time earlier in the day for your evening’s cocktails. So you sit at the bar sipping on this lovely stuff. Then Mr. Rolex shows up and sits and drinks with you while Rays suggests some appetizers of crab baked in scallop shells with Mornay sauce or would you rather have Oysters Rockefeller, and your ears just about fall off your head that anyone in this God forsaken corner of the world ever heard of Mornay sauce, let alone cooking an appetizer in scallop shells. After several shots of Tequila and the aforesaid appetizer you move over to your table for the main course.

Mr. Rolex has also brought a lovely bottle of a fine Mexican cabernet sauvignon that sets your soul to singing. You have not had such a good wine in so long. You savor every sip. Rays sets a chalkboard with the menu in front of you—lobster, steak, scallops, chicken, fish. When your meal is set in front of you, in my case lobster and steak with a beautiful selection of fresh assorted vegetables scattered artistically on the plate, you can’t believe you are experiencing such a magical evening. Then when you have finished eating, to top it all off, there you are presented with Brandy Alexanders which you never would have ordered, but which you are now addicted to—brandy and Kahlua blended with ice and cream and dusted with cocoa. This is now one of the best meals you have ever had in your entire life and you are sure you will probably die from a splitting headache in the morning, but it is so absolutely worth it. Now you are drinking yet more shots Tequila and are pretty certain that this will be your last supper, but no doubt you will die in your bed happy. Did we really ever eat there, was it real, or was it an imaginary feast? We hope to find out soon by trying to go back again.

November 26, 2008

Power shopping in Santa Rosalia

Santa Rosalia keeps surprising me! Today I went shopping with Sr. Jueves to get Christmas tree lights. The grocery store we frequent most often is Moreno on Funeral Street. Although this street probably has a real honest-to-God Mexican name (something like Santos Degollados which you find in most cities and which means ‘Beheaded Saints’), Esperando and I refer to it as Funeral Street because that is where most of the funerals take place, at least that we know about. What happens is the street gets blockaded off with sawhorses so traffic cannot pass through whenever there is a funeral going on. This is because the funerals are open air with all the attendees sitting around on folding chairs. Traffic would be a distraction and probably noisy as well so they just block the street off. This is a one way street, so those wanting to get to the grocery store drive a few blocks below the funeral parlor and back up the street to get closer to the store.

In any event I was just telling Hermana that a glue gun would be really helpful in making the Xmas tree ornaments on which I have been working. First the cook brought me some really sucky rubber cement so I could get glitter on the gourds, then when I got pretty frustrated with that, I asked Sr. Jueves for something resembling Elmer’s glue. He brought me a VERY runny white glue that is so thin it easily spills on everything and makes quite a mess. Well as we were walking up the street to Moreno, he pointed out a florist shop that had some Christmas stuff. When we went into the store there was very little useful to me for Christmas purposes—except glue guns! I was so excited! I never thought I would find a glue gun here. Then we jaunted across the way to Moreno that had about 10 brand new really fresh Christmas trees on their front porch bound up with twine and quite a few boxes of strands of Christmas tree lights for sale.

Everyday the store gets more and more bounty to meet the Christmas demand. I actually found and purchased a squirty can of real Challenge whipping cream, some mandarin oranges, a few more really fresh yams as the ones Sr. Jueves brought yesterday were really tiny. But that is not all, no not all—what I didn’t buy were Bugles, chocolate covered cherries, tins of Christmas cookies, a large box of Francia white zinfandel (ugh!) Then as we were heading back to the house I noticed someone had put live poinsettias in a planter box. I asked Sr. Jueves, what is this red flower that is special here to Christmas—aaaah, a Noche Buena, he said. Do you want one, there is a man selling them here in town. Oh yes, says I. He turns the vehicle up another block and there is a man selling poinsettias right out of his pickup truck for $15. So I bought one. It is amazing what you can find in Santa Rosalia these days!

November 24, 2008

Before Christmas, Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving approaches on Thursday. Yesterday I made a pot of Rich Turkey Broth (substituting chicken drumsticks) and tore up a bunch of our Panaderia El Boleo French bakery bread into cubes to dry out for making the stuffing. I am thinking this time I will add sausage and pistachios to the stuffing. I have found an interesting Argentine style sausage that worked well the other day in my lasagna.

My thankful meal will come when Esperando gets back home from La Paz. Now that the Aero Mexico flight to and from Mexico City to Loreto has been cancelled, he has a 6-hour drive ahead of him. Fortunately a driver will bring him home. The Storyteller, I hope, is looking forward to some Yankee food —he gets two Thanksgivings this year as he celebrated Canadian Thanksgiving in October when he was home on leave. I got curious about all of that and went and did a little research on Thanksgiving. It appears the U.S. colonists celebrated Thanksgiving fairly frequently and independently throughout the colonies, and when the Revolution broke out and the Royalists moved up to Canada they took that thanksgiving tradition with them, hence both Americans and Canadians celebrate the same holiday, but not in the same month.

Turns out we can have a fairly traditional Thanksgiving here in all ways but the turkey, so I will substitute chicken instead. I believe I could have ordered a turkey from a market in Mulege, an hour away. I didn’t know how to do that this time so I just went with the chicken. Our menu will be shrimp cocktail (Mexican style, made by the cook), the aforementioned bread stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, orange glazed yams, broccoli, cranberry sauce (I prefer fresh cranberries, but that I could even FIND canned berries down here is a miracle), and pumpkin pie for dessert. We will have to break out one of our hoarded bottles of California zinfandel to accompany all this.

Rich Turkey Stock

2 lbs turkey parts, neck, drumsticks, wings, bones
2 – 3 T olive oil
½ to 1 ½ c raw chopped carrots and onions
1 small chopped parsnip
1 to 2 stocks tender celery with leaves, chopped
2 cloves chopped garlic
1 walnut size piece chopped ginger
Handful of chopped parsley
1 bay leaf
1-2 c dry white wine

Chop turkey into pieces (i.e. bones, wings, drumsticks) of reasonable size and in a large frying pan brown them in oil, adding vegetables halfway through. Transfer to a heavy saucepan, leaving fat behind. Pour out fat and deglaze pan with wine. Pour wine into pot and add 11 cups of water. Bring to boil and simmer for two hours. Strain solid ingredients out. Degrease broth.

November 22, 2008

Christmas is coming

TorOur Christmas tree arrived last week. Esperando told me we would be getting a Torote Blanco or Elephant Tree, a native Baja California tree which the local population has traditionally used as a Christmas tree. It has a thick gray-green trunk with peelish bark and pinnately compound green leaves with kind of a piney scent but is shaped like a regular tree and bears no resemblance to a pine tree. We have seen some very large ones, but ours is about 6 feet high. Esperando told me he had asked the Cactus Kid (the mine has to tag and relocate thousands of cactuses as part of its environmental requirement, hence a cactus specialist familiar with the over 30 varieties of local cactus) would be bringing a tree to our house. I said, why don’t we have him bring it in early December instead of now? We were driving around in the car at the time running errands. Ok, he said, I will have him bring it later. But when we got back home the tree had already been cut down and moved into the room. When you want stuff to happen here fast it never does, but when you want to delay things it doesn’t work that way either.

So it is sitting there staring me in the face, naked. Then this weekend we went out looking for gourds so I wouldn’t have to invest any money in Christmas tree ornaments. The mine has quite a number of gourd plants here and there and we drove along stopping every now and then and only taking the ones that had dried out. We ran into a Mexican mine employee who is known to us, and he wanted to know what we were looking for. When we said ‘gourds’ he smiled and said, ‘oh for Christmas ornaments.’ We said yes. Then we went on our way. We have also been combing the beach for clam shells and sea urchins. I plan to take the whole and spray paint them gold and silver and add a little glitter.

The next day we drove to the Pacific, a three hour drive over dirt roads, to find out about the whale watching at Laguna San Ignacio. We saw lots of boarded up cabins and found out that whale watching runs from January through March. We dipped our toes in the water and sat mesmerized by the gentle surf and warming sun while we ate our peanut butter sandwiches. Then we drove back to San Ignacio, a tiny town with a lovely tree shaded plaza and an old mission church. We went into a general store off the plaza and the owner asked us if we were American citizens. We both got pretty excited because we thought he said American cheese, and we thought he was going to sell us a nice cheddar. In fact he wanted to know if we were in favor of Obama's election. He said of the 100 people that have driven through on their way to vacation all but two were in favor of Obama. He thought our election was a really good thing for the world.

When we got back to the house there was a huge bag of gourds waiting at the front door from our mining buddy. The next day in the grocery store I saw him and thanked him. How many did you find he asked? Oh about 20 I said. (I was looking for the dried out ones). I found 52, he said! -- Now I have way more gourds than I could possibly ever need and I doubt there will be any future gourds as the seed source has been drastically depleted. Still it was a very kind thought of his to supply me with all these gourds.

November 15, 2008

House party

Yesterday and today we are entertaining three Korean visitors, investors in the Boleo project. Last night we gave them gifts and they gave us gifts of some nice wood boxes with artwork on them. Our gifts were a hand-woven turquoise shawl from Oaxaca for the woman and domino sets made of Mexican onyx for the men. It turns out they didn’t know how to play dominos, but one of our other dinner guests, a Mexican man is quite the aficionado, and he taught them how to play the game. I think they enjoyed themselves a lot between that and some nice shots of Don Julio to liven up the game. It was a beautiful moonlit night, one day after the full moon, so after learning how to play dominos we took our tequila shot classes back out on the porch for moon bathing classes. Not so many boats out on the water as normal which surprised me as we didn’t have any wind at all last night. Today they will go on a mine tour to see what has been constructed with their money.

Tonight we will have a sort of Korean bbq party. The evening will start with taquizas (sort of like pigs in a blanket, but rolled in corn tortillas and fried), dipping sauce, and margaritas out on the patio, followed with skewers of beef filet that has been marinated in Korean bbq sauce and served as brochettes with bacon, green pepper and tomato. Of course we will have rice, kim chee from our dwindling supply in the refrigerator, and Korean hot pepper sauce.

Today our order of tamales showed up. It is getting to be quite the business now as the girls have a list of about 10 people wanting to get orders in on these tamales. I didn't realize this was going on, but I could hear them in the kitchen calling up people and taking orders, this one wants 2, she wants 5, etc. I thought it must be some kind of betting pool, then I realized it was the tamales. I personally didn’t find them much different from others I have had here locally, but I must be missing something because a list of 10 people attests to their greatness. They certainly are handsome in their rolls of corn husk with corn husk ties.

November 11, 2008

Marmalade Blues

We ran out of orange marmalade yesterday and the Storyteller was broken hearted. You can’t buy it here, but we have Seville oranges coming out of our ears. (Did I mention the fresh squeezed orange juice we have to choke down every morning?) So I decided to make a batch of marmalade after searching out different recipes on internet. After all, my father used to make marmalade every couple of days to feed his insatiable jelly habit, so surely I had to have some of those jelly making genes coursing through my blood.

It rather astounds me how many recipes are out there, quite different from one another. Some want you to juice the fruit, scoop out the pulp and seeds, then liquefy the whole in a blender adding shaved peels of orange rind slices to the pot when the sugar goes in—others want you boil the fruit whole for several hours then slice it in very thin slices, reserve the seeds to boil for another 10 minutes, strain them out, then add the sugar. I went for the latter recipe (less work) and ended up with two and a half pint Mason jars of chunky marmalade, not too much jelly more fruit. Next time I think I would cut the oranges up smaller, it is on the bitter side which I prefer however I think the shaved peel version would not be so bitter. I boiled it to the point they suggested on the candy thermometer, but I think I might not boil it quite so high next time as the jelly part is a bit more dense than I would like.

We don’t get grapefruit here or I might have been tempted to try my father’s version which he came by from my grandmother. I think this one from the Fannie Farmer Cookbook is similar:

Page's Favorite Marmalade

1 grapefruit
2 oranges
2 lemons

Scrub fruit, slice very thin, saving the juice. Discard the seeds and the grapefruit core. Measure the fruit and juice. Put the fruit and juice in a large pot and add three times as much water. Simmer, covered for 2 hours, then let stand overnight. Measure the fruit and liquid, then add an equal amount of sugar and a sprinkle of salt. Cook rapidly, in two or three batches, until the jelly point is reached, stirring frequently. Pour into hot sterilized jars and seal.

November 9, 2008

How I spent my summer vacation

Well here we are in Santa Rosalia after a week’s vacation in that most festive of Mexican cities, Guadalajara. We stayed at Don Quinto Jose, a delightful B&B in the heart of Tlaquepaque, a suburb of Guadalajara famous for stores and galleries that are housed in old colonial casonas—grand old houses. Anyone of them would have been perfect to move into with its thick walls to keep you cool inside and shaded fountain courtyards. Those that aren’t shops are fabulous restaurants that throw singing canaries and splashing fountains into the ambiance along with unusual food and music. The main street is just for pedestrians and is lined with shops and benches where talented poor people sing their hearts out for a few coins.

Esperando and I decided that Tlaquepaque and Tonalá (another artisan suburb) are where you would want to go to furnish and decorate your home Mexican style. This means that much of what you find will not fit in your suitcase because it is furniture, chandeliers, glass or ceramic or way too big. Where I could, I bought textiles which transport more easily.

One of our missions was to find an unusual and not too expensive nativity set which we finally encountered in Tequila, an hour’s drive away and our day excursion from Guadalajara. A taxi conveyed us out of Tlaquepaque for a 25 minute trip to the car rental agency in downtown Guadalajara, making a u-turn in the middle of a busy bidirectional 6-lane street, turning from the outside right lane going west across oncoming traffic into the eastbound lane far right to place us right at the front door. Be still, my heart! Once we got in our rental car to undertake the journey, I was sure we has made a really bad decision and would become permanently lost. The full extent of the city’s 3 million population wasn’t so obvious when you just take a taxi across town. It’s once you are on the roads driving and driving and you are still in a city that you begin to realize this. We did miss our turn getting out of central Guadalajara and drove about 10 blocks the wrong direction before we got back on track. The many one way 3- and 4-lane streets seemed daunting initially, but the roads were relatively well signed and the map in our guidebook was sufficiently detailed to get us there.

We took the ‘old’ highway which took us through the little towns on the way rather than the toll road. After we got into blue agave country—much like driving through the California wine country--each little town would have stalls selling tequila along the roadside. Tequila, like Champagne in France, is an appellation limited to the state of Jalisco and a few other small areas of neighboring states and can only be made from blue agave. When we got to Tequila, a quaint and prosperous small town, we had a tour at the world class Jose Cuervo distillery and another of the Sauza family home built in the 1800’s, now a museum housing the family’s history. It was there we found a darling corn sheaf crèche to take back with us to Santa Rosalia.

They wrapped it up carefully in tissue paper and we hand carried it in a paper bag so it wouldn’t get crushed in transit. We drove back to Guadalajara and gave ourselves a pat on the back that we actually maneuvered through the one-way streets and heavy traffic to get back to the National rental counter. Taxi back to the hotel, and another taxi to the airport for our airplane to LA. Once onboard, we placed our delicate little bundle carefully in the overhead bin arguing with the stewardess that it was fragile and we didn’t want to put it in the bin until everyone else had organized their things. Finally we made it back over the course of several days, pressed the green light in customs at the airport in Loreto and almost made it out of the terminal before the agriculture guy said, “Do you have food in the bag.” “No,” said I. “Let me see it,” he said. “You can’t keep this, it is made of plant matter.” “Yes corn sheaves, we bought it in Guadalajara.” figuring Mexican corn sheaves would be acceptable. “Do you have a receipt?” “Yes here.” “But it doesn’t say what it is made from.” “Its made from corn sheaves here in Mexico.” After about 15 minutes of this dialog we finally gave up and left Mary, Joseph and the wise men behind. Because Baby Jesus and a sheep had been packed even more carefully in my suitcase, they survived unscathed, but they look pretty lonely sitting around by themselves. I think maybe the sheep sings lullabys when I’m not in the room.

October 28, 2008


I am still feeding Penelope the white cat that is Frida’s mother. Several weeks ago she approached me on an outside wall, walking over and crouching down, then meowing soundlessly, and saying, “Senora, I am desperately starving, you took my baby so you owe me.”

She was piteously thin. There were lots of little black specks of fruit flies crawling on her fur and her eyes were draining almost as if she was crying. She looked most pathetic. I took pity on her and told her I would feed her, that yes I had taken her child, and I did owe her. I went in the house and got cat food, and when I came back out and put it down I realized from the way her sides were distended that she was pregnant. So then I told her I would keep feeding her so her kittens could be healthy.

Well now she comes every afternoon and I feed her. For a week now she has been skinny again. Once I thought I heard kittens miaowing nearby, but it could just have easily been my imagination. I actually don’t know if they are ensconced somewhere or whether they were so malnourished that they didn’t survive their birth as it was pretty late in the game that I started feeding her.

She now looks well fed which means that she has the energy to hiss at me everyday as she approaches me for the food I put down for her. Her eyes are a glacial pale blue with a baleful cast. There’s nothing like a little gratitude—it goes a long way. Nothing is more humbling than caring for something that snarls, “I hate you but I will eat the food you bring me anyway.” Maybe the payback will be if I see some little kitties trapsing out to join her one day. I wish there was someway to get her fixed, but she is really wild and untrusting and she would just as soon bite the hand that feds her.

October 23, 2008

Life Goes On

Today it is quite windy again and doors slam shut with the breeze that rifles through the house from open windows. I just reread John Steinbeck’s The Pearl last night which is set in La Paz. He describes the wind blowing the sand around just like it is doing today, although he doesn’t mention all the white caps on the sea. His prose is always so good and his stories are always so depressing.

The gardener has stripped the Virginia Creeper off the tall wall that angles around the kitchen so now I have this huge blank canvas starring me in the face. My first thought is to paint the wall blue and put a mermaid on it that would face the kitchen window.

Such an exciting thing happened yesterday! Sr. Jueves my errand boy and grocery runner found a big bag of beautiful Salinas, California, grown romaine lettuce (we can generally only get abused heads of iceberg) and a 2 pound box of fresh mushrooms. I am vacillating between making clams and linguine or a mushroom tart so that I can use them up before they are over the hill. To bad Esperando won’t be back until Sunday as I don’t believe they will last that long.

The cook seems to have a knack with my dessert recipes, so I have been continuing to feed her new recipes. This part is really nice because I don’t make desserts at home as we are always dieting. It is nice to have someone else make them and have them turn out well, you don’t have to do the work of making it, just sampling it. And since my guests like desserts I can feed it to them and have a taste along the way. Today we are making a coconut cake—something I always drool at in magazines but never make since I am the only coconut lover I know of in my immediate family.

Little Frida has taken to wetting on our sitting room couch. Fortunately I caught it before the couch was ruined and our room inundated with the smell. I have a cloth throw over the couch to control animal fur, but had not anticipated the excitement of added new fragrances as well. I have been putting a split garbage bag down under my cloth throw, but after last night—no more. She is banished to the bathroom permanently. I washed the throw three times yesterday after multiple episodes, and then she and Sour Pickle started tussling on my bed at 4 AM. Then she started pouncing on my feet. Somehow she doesn’t realize that the top of me, which frightens her, is attached to my feet when they are covered with a blanket. I finally put both of them in the bathroom so the dog and I could have some quiet sleep. I have decided to call her Little Pickle. She may end up an outdoor cat after all once she is spayed if we can’t get on top of this peeing thing.

October 19, 2008

Mystery chef

It is certainly an advantage to have a good cook at Casa Boleo, and we have been enjoying her cooking now for almost 3 months. Yesterday we had a great mystery. She posted the menu for supper—sopa de calabacitas (zucchini soup), arroz chaufa (Chinese rice), and a green salad. I didn’t anticipate the addition of soup to the menu since I had designed a fairly light, diet conscious supper. She worked late the night before and it was Saturday night and Esperando, the Storyteller and I didn’t want to rush dinner, so I told her she could leave the meal ready and we would just reheat it. Before she left I noticed the squash soup in a skillet where she had apparently cooked the vegetable part and I anticipated would add the stock to it. Esperando also had a look at the squash soup and came and told me that it had meat in it too. We argued about this for a while and eventually I sent the Storyteller into the kitchen to see what he thought it was, but all he saw was what she had prepared for the Arroz Chaufa because the fabled squash soup had disappeared. Then she left.

When we finally decided to eat I went in the kitchen to reheat stuff only to discover that she had cooked everything for the Arroz Chaufa to a point, but left the final assembly to me. The rice was soggy and standing in water, but I was able to drain it and make do. She apparently doesn’t understand how to run the rice cooker. She can follow any Mexican cookbook recipe and things taste fine, but most of my gringa recipes suffer in the translation. I looked around for the squash soup and could not find it, although Esperando and I had both seen something on the stove that we thought was squash soup. The salad was also not to be found anywhere.

The next morning I made a concerted effort to find the missing squash soup, but all I could see was two containers of a reddish sauce. Finally this evening I opened one up, it was the only thing I could see that was new in the refrigerator since yesterday. I saw some solid stuff had settled in the bottom of the Tupperware container that could be squash, but lo and behold it was hominy!! Eureka, she had made posole, so I had some for dinner and it was quite good, but the squash soup is still missing.

We have an independent cottage industry of foods here that I am starting to get to know a little. One of the maids came to me Friday and said that she had a good tamale maker and did I want to order some tamales for the weekend, so I said sure—two dozen! Turns out I got one dozen for $12. I think we are paying gringo inflated prices, or the maid is marking them up. They are tasty but not spicy and each tamale has two green olives cooked in it.

Then as I was coming back from an errand the other day, two Mexican ladies drove by in pickup truck and stopped to tell me that they had just come from Mulege where one of them has owned an ice cream store and pastry shop for the past 30 years. The back of their truck was loaded with dessert empanadas (mango, guanabana, and cheese), oatmeal cookies, coconut candy and sweet dinner rolls. So I had a variety for tasting and they gave me some extras to try too. It seems they come here every Friday, so they will call before they come and see if I want to place an order.

October 16, 2008

Lots of Helping Hands

Today I moved Frida into our bedroom; she had become comfortable in her old room and didn’t run from us when we entered anymore. But now we are going to have a full house and need her room. And now that she is in a new place she is all discombobulated again and is hiding fiercely. I will have to banish Sweet Pickle to the Storyteller’s room for a few nights—thank goodness for his kindness and advice on training cats or we never would have gotten so far. I think getting used to new digs and a new dog at the same time would probably be the last straw for her! I hope this will eventually work; she just may be one of those cats that just hides all the time.

Lord knows Winnie is doing his best to convince her that it is all cool. He has slid under furniture that is too low for him to get under to talk to her, has batted a ping pong ball all over the room to lure her out, and when that has failed has just sat and meowed plaintively until she has finally came out. It’s pretty amazing to watch what an affect he has on her and how responsive she is to him. He inspected the new larger litter box I got out and indicated it would be fine by immediately jumping into it and pawing imaginary litter around, then he felt she should know where to eat so he jumped up on the counter to show her his bowl and sat back contentedly while I filled her bowl and watched her eat. I have never seen a cat work so hard at hospitality to another animal. I hope we are somewhat settled down before next Monday when the bulk of our guests will arrive.

One thing nice thing this time about having a houseful of guests is I know these girls can handle all the cleaning and feeding of people. We had a full house when Esperando and I were gone for three weeks and all reports were that everything went fine. Right now ordinarily I would start stressing, but they’ve all been through this drill before and so all I have to do is hand the cook the menu for the week and sit back and let them do the work. Amaaaaazing. I could never have imagined how capable they would be. How lucky I am to have such great employees.

October 13, 2008

A Day at the Beach

Yesterday Esperando and I spent exploring the beaches at Punto Chivato. Clever Esperando went to Google Earth to look for a beach that someone had told him about north of where we usually go. From Google Earth he could pretty much tell what road to take to get us there—thank you Google Earth! The road was windy and rocky, and it’s a good thing we had 4-wheel drive. At the beach, the waves were wild and wind driven. The sight of the raw power of the ocean was awesome. We thought the storm might have washed stuff in, and we did see lots of dead puffer fish. This beach is has rocks and shell fragments instead of sand, but interestingly these have all been worn to smooth ovals with the heavy action of the surf. So you have these beautiful polished fragments of rock and shell collected in large masses to rake through. I call this beach Rock Beach.

We spent about an hour walking around and taking pictures, then went back up over the hill to the beach we know that I call Sandy Beach near the Italian hotel, Posada de las Flores. This beach has very fine pale grey sand and some nice shells. The storm had wiped the beach clean as a slate. This beach is on a kind of mini peninsula, and it became apparent that the surf had washed over the entire little peninsula during the hurricane. All the shells had been washed to the other side of the peninsula and were strewn across the sand by the tide. Lots of them were older worn out shells that must have been submerged for some period of time as they were green or grey and not very attractive. We had our lunch there as the ocean was much calmer on this side.

We thought about going home then, but I remembered there was supposed to be a great shell beach on the southwest end of the development, so we set off in that direction to see what was at the other end. We found the last house in the development and took the road to it. As I have said previously this community is the kind of place people come to stay for about 1 month each year, so here are all these nice homes sitting around empty. Its kind of sad. Anyway, we drove down to the beach and got out to explore another fine beach. This one had lava flows and potential tide pools on the left side and a beautiful sandy beach COVERED with shells on the right side. I picked up about 10 perfect murex shells, a fragile and intact pinshell, and some I don’t know. It was a pretty incredible event—nothing like going shopping for free!

We finally decided to head for home and got back on the highway; it was then we saw how strong the wind was and how churned up the sea was for it. Hugh white caps topped the very dark blue water. The wind has continued all night and the temperature has dropped dramatically—it was 70F as a low last night and we could sleep comfortably without air conditioning or fan! Apparently this is normal fall weather here. Today it is even more windy if that is possible, and fine dust is filtering into the house through windows and the doors. Ugh!

October 9, 2008

Them Phenomena

For a while now, we gringos have noticed that our lives seem run by a nebulous collective of “them” that make decisions for us without ever mentioning what they are up to. It gives our life here a mysterious undefinable quality which means every day is filled with large and small surprises. This applies to all aspects of living down here—a new maid is hired unbeknownst to the Duena, a man whom Esperando never hired quits his job in Mexicali and shows up on the doorstep to one day ready to start his new job, a guard is promoted to gardener based on a whimsical conversation, the cook sporatically makes a big addition to a carefully planned meal just when we thought she understood we were dieting, new gadgets appear in the kitchen and laundry room that were never approved. These are just a few small examples of everyday occurrences in the land of milk and honey.

Often things are left hanging such as cellular bills that don’t get paid so your phone doesn’t work, TVs that have been waiting to be installed for months because no one ever approved their installation, furniture that was ordered and paid for but never arrived—you never quite know if its in the works or just fell through the crack, but common sense leads you to believe the latter. Its essence is encapsulated by “who’s on first base.”

For the Type A personality this can lead to a nervous breakdown, but if you are more of a Type B and can learn to roll with the punches you can really develop a sense of true meaning of mañana.

October 8, 2008

Easy as falling off a log

When Esperando got home from work, we began on the kitten-napping scheme. Esperando tied some string to the crate door and fixed it so he could pull the string once the kitten entered the crate to eat. I baited the crate with kitten chow, and we sat back about 6 feet to wait. True to form little Frida entered the crate and we had her! When the door shut there was a grand explosion of frightened kitten, Esperando brought the crate into the house and immediately Winnie was there nosing the crate door and she calmed down measurably. We left her with Winnie in her room for a bit after the capture, but she was alone last night. Today Winnie is in her room off and on, they are playing, and she is purring now and then, though not on my account. She will still have to get used to us, and to Sweet Pickle too.

In the meanwhile we are holding our collective breaths here as Hurricane Norbert strengthens into a Category 4 hurricane. One more day should tell us if it’s on track to hit Baja for sure. It will be a pain to have to bring all the outdoor furniture inside, but at least there is some room for it. This will also be a test of how well we have “waterized” the house since our last mopping up adventure with Tropical Depression Julio. We have put weatherstripping in all the doors and windows, and all the doors now have door jambs. My roses that we brought with us in the car have grown some since I was away in the U.S. and are starting to bloom!! Since they are in pots we can bring them into the house too.

A few nights ago we started leaving our bedroom windows open as it is starting to cool off enough in the evening, and we prefer the fresh air to the air conditioner. Then as we lay there Esperando whacked at his head and said, “There was something big climbing on my head!” We turned the lights on but could never find anything. In the morning when he put his shoes on, he spied a gecko hiding in the corner of the room! I caught it in a jar and released back outside. That poor gecko looked awfully skinny, I think it had been shut in a window for the last 3 weeks.

October 7, 2008


Last night as we were getting ready for bed I went out to the living room to get Winnie who spends a good deal of his waking hours at the window pining for Frida. And there was the outside door in the dining room wide open to the night. Needless to say, Winnie had split! Esperando found a flashlight which I shined under the trailer where Frida likes to hang out, and there was Frida but no Winnie. I tried the next ruse for luring wayward cats into the house and rattled his treat bag, and lo and behold, there came Winnie from the front gate where he must have been considering a yet bolder escape. Fortunately we got him back in, there’s something about leaving an indoor cat outside overnight that leaves me cold.

Today seems a day fraught with potential. On Friday we are expecting Hurricane Norbert, and Esperando has decided we must trap Frida tonight to save her from drowning and to domesticate her further. And after consulting the internet, it turns out a female kitten as young as 4 months can go into heat!! I can’t imagine she is more than 3 months old, but we certainly don’t need to tempt fate with kittens having more kittens. Should the hurricane turn out to be bad, its possible she wouldn’t even survive it. So I took the crate outside and started to set it up this afternoon. While I was setting it up nearby she woke from her nap under the trailer and came out and started meowing at me, like, “don’t you have any more food?” I placed the crate with the door fixed ajar and went inside to get some kitten chow. When I back came out she was standing at the door of the cage smelling the crate which of course smells like her novio (boyfriend) Sour Pickle. I put in the kitten chow, then left to go watch from the window and see if she would go in it. After giving it a bit more of a sniff she followed the trail of kitten food inside. Who could think it might be this easy?

October 6, 2008

Changing seasons

Here we are back in Santa Rosalia after almost 3 weeks away in the US of A. It’s nice to be back, especially considering that fall, albeit a mild and pleasant fall, came upon us in Denver. We had a good time seeing everyone, though our visits were all too brief. Tonight they have a freeze advisory in Denver while it looks like we may have a hurricane advisory down here this weekend for Hurricane Norbert. It was certainly much cooler last night, down in the 70s, and the wind is already picking up today from the hurricane’s reach. It is not expected to make landfall until this weekend. Who knows what that will mean? This is expected to be a hurricane and not a tropical depression as the last two were. It will strike on the Pacific side and cross over (or not) the mountains so that may diminish it a bit. Not many guests at the house for the moment which makes for a pretty relaxed week ahead.

At the airport we met a young woman to whom we gave a ride as far as Mulege where she was on her way to teach sea kayaking at a NOLS campus. NOLS is US-based outdoor skills school with campuses worldwide, a bit like Outward Bound, with the goal of teaching leadership skills through outdoor endurance and self-reliance training. The campus was very low key in appearance, but well equipped with both kayaks and sailboats, bulk food that the participants package to take along with them to cook and eat in the evenings, and various staff to cook and clean the camper-dormitories. Our acquaintance actually expects to be teaching NASA astronauts in a couple of weeks but was bemoaning how poorly she gets paid (about $24K a year).

The big news is that while we were gone Winnie learned how to open the screen door and let himself out. He met up with little Frida on one of his wanders, and the Storyteller who was sitting in his room, heard a lot of cat yelling and snarfing, and went racing out the door just in time to see the two of them touch noses. Now Frida sits outside and calls for Winnie to come out and play. Although I don’t mind his occasional escape, I am reluctant to let him became an outside cat, what with the other male cats that may want to fight, the fact none of these cats have been inoculated against any kind of cat diseases, and non-friendly stray dogs should he wander into the street. Frida is a lot friendlier than she was when I left. I can sit on the wall and put food down 2 feet away from me and she will eat it, but she won’t come any closer. We seem to have a new adult black and white cat, Señor Mustache, that doesn’t look that hungry but is also young and quite handsome. I only saw Penelope briefly yesterday and no sign of Diego so far. Pretty soon I will probably be feeding all the cats in town just to get my hands on Frida.

Tomorrow I will venture downtown to see what kind of unusual groceries I can find, and then I will probably start looking for some new gringo recipes to teach the cook.

September 18, 2008

Homing Pidgeons

Esperando and I are off for the next little while to Estados Unidos. Before the crack of dawn tomorrow morning we will drive to the Loreto airport. First we go to the Bay Area and visit the new fairy princess grandbaby whom we have not met yet for a couple of days, then on to Las Vegas for the Mining Expo. Sounds like we will get to take in some shows including Lionel Ritchie and Cirque de Soleil "About Love" which is inspired with Beatles music. Next stop will be Denver for a short day, then on to Taos for our nephew's wedding. Back to Denver, a few doctors stops, on to Loreto and La Paz to get some more home furnishings and household stuff, voila! before we know it we will be coming back to Santa Rosalia in time to get ready for American Thanksgiving here.

We are expecting some children to arrive for Thanksgiving, an as yet undetermined number of them. I am already scratching my brain as to what will be available locally to fed both carnivores and vegetarians. I'm not sure that we can get turkey, definitely not mushrooms, maybe some sweet potatoes, broccoli and cauliflower, for sure rice, beans, tomatoes and onions. Hmmm. This may be one of your more untraditional Thanksgivings!

I am leaving Sweet and Sour Pickle here under the charge of our household help, and the Storyteller. I hope they are no worse for wear when I get back. I am also leaving the staff with 4 guests to care for--clean their rooms, feed them, get the placesettings on the table. I hope I get good reports--and that no mystery guests show up when I am gone! The way things change around here I am not sure what will happen when I go away.

September 17, 2008

The walrus and the carpenter

The dog hates the carpenter. He can’t wait to eat him. I don’t know what the carpenter really did to antagonize such a people-loving dog. One time Esperando went back to talk to the carpenter and Sweet Pickle came with him. The carpenter didn’t realize Esperando was there and he started teasing the dog. The Storyteller and Esperando tell me the dog is picking up on my dislike of the carpenter and is hostile toward him because of that, but I tell you I don’t even have to be around and the dog will bark and growl at him.

The carpenter is one of the few Mexicans here who speaks pretty good English. He is a Jehovah’s Witness and occasionally wants to preach to you. We had two days for Mexican Independence day, and he was here right in our faces hammering away, what ought to have been restful time off was not so. Esperando asked him if he wasn’t taking the two days of holiday, and he said, no, he only celebrates the Lord’s last supper, and nothing to do with Mexico. One day when he entered the room labeled “El Diablo” (remember my rooms are labeled with the Mexican loteria cards and El Diablo is card #2 hence Room #2) he started to lecture me about Satan.

He wants to cozy up to us so he will get more work. He does do really fine carpentry, so I can’t fault him there. But the problem is you can’t turn him off when he starts talking. Both the Texican and I are busy with our own projects and he tries to invade our space. He is always here working when we are trying to eat lunch or dinner because he starts working at 10:30 am, takes a break at 3 pm for lunch and is back here by 6 pm working again. He brings his 9-year old son with him sometimes and the boy stands outside and stars at me through the window.

This morning the carpenter came into my room (while I was in the bathroom!) to tell me he would be working on the doors at the other end of the house. I was a little annoyed he didn’t send the cook or the maid in to find me, or knock on the door. I told him I would keep the animals in my room. In the meantime Sweet Pickle was trying to slink around the table to get away from him but the carpenter was standing between us, then he started waving his hat and Sweet Pickle immediately turned barking and would have attacked him. I had to drag the snarling dog into my bedroom and tell the carpenter how to behave so the dog would not attack him. I said, “you have been mean to the dog and he is afraid of you. Don’t wave your hat at him, or make aggressive movements, it scares him and that is why he is trying to attack you.” “I didn’t do anything,” the carpenter said. “Yes you did, you were mean to him,” I responded, “that is why he does this.’” The carpenter was silent.

September 15, 2008

Cat stories

Our first night on the road in Baja we spent the night in Catavina way out in the middle of nowhere. It is an amazing wild place in the middle of a cactus and boulder forest and surprisingly has a really nice hotel with very good restaurant. That, with about seven houses is the extent of it. This hotel also had a colony of about beautiful starving cats and a darling kitten. We thought about kidnapping her, but in the end decided it wasn’t the most intelligent idea and left her to her fate.

When we arrived here I was determined I would not take on any local animals. Casa Boleo came with two part-time wild cats that live outside. When I say “came with” I actually mean they spend a good portion of their time here sleeping in the side yard under the spare company pickup trucks. One is a white cat with blue eyes, and the other is her darling calico kitten which actually has little black hearts scattered on her fur as part of her calico design. My heart couldn’t bear to watch the kitten with kind of a palsy that hungry little animals have nor the plaintive miaowing one night, so off to the store I went the next day for Purina kitten chow. For about 5 nights in a row I fed little Frida Kahlo, her mother Penelope, and one whom we assume is her father, Diego Rivera. Our cat Winnie was plastered to the window much of the time and wouldn’t even move or go to eat when he could be watching her.

Then no little Frida for two days. Penelope came and Diego came, I was sure she had met some evil fate. Last night she and Penelope were back, I have no idea where she was holing up or why she abandoned us. But I swear to you she looks well fed and has grown about 2 inches. I wonder if she has a real owner but I can’t imagine so she is such a wild little thing. I don’t know if I will ever get close enough to pet her, she runs away each time I go out and put down cat food to reappear in two minutes and chow down on it. Today she is gone again, although the place is lousy with workmen, so maybe that’s not surprising.

September 14, 2008

Dias Patrias

Tropical Storm Lowell never quite got up here to Santa Rosalia which is just as well by me. The day before all the giant-squid fishermen hauled their boats up on the parking lot by the port. We have been told that for $20 you can go out on a squid boat and watch them haul their catch in, then when you get tired of it for another $20 they will bring you back to shore. The squid fishing all takes place at night, and all these squid guys have a big light hanging out in front of the boat to lure the squid up from the depths. Most nights their boat lights out on the water look like a small town, so many of them are fishing close together.

We are getting ready in Santa Rosalia for the national holiday, 16 de Septiembre, the foremost Mexican independence holiday. Cinco de May is independence from the French, but 16 de Septiembre is independence from Spain and is really the real biggie. In any event it is very hard to park downtown these days as everyone in town is selling jewelry, flags, and whatnot. Kids are in the big barnlike structure that houses some historic photos and are practicing folkloric dancing for the big parade on Tuesday. We have Monday and Tuesday off. Esperando bought a big Mexican flag to hang in front of the house. Monday is a full moon so any partying and I can tell you there will be a lot from the looks of the plaza and the banners in the streets, will have that as its influence! Esperando and I plan to watch the parade.

Yesterday we had the kitchen fumigated to keep the ants at bay. It was pretty gross with chemical smells and I got a sore throat from it. We had to empty everything out of the kitchen and then of course the cook wanted to go home as there was nothing for her to do, and I had to tell her no. The pets don’t seem to have been adversely affected, and my sore throat is gone today. I also had them spray the patio for ants, which unfortunately doesn’t seem to have had any affect on the flies.

We brought some hummingbird feeders down which haven’t had much action until last night. We apparently have an indigenous hummingbird that doesn’t know anything about feeders. We haven’t seen them for a couple of days so they must have started south. However last night a larger hummingbird showed up and drank a couple of times from the feeder and was quite calm about our presence. Maybe we will have a big hummingbird winter with migrants from the north!!

September 8, 2008

Laughter is the best medicine

Poor Esperando. He came back from Vancouver and right off the bat, Dama de la Casa said “you need a haircut”. Dama de la Casa said, “you are meeting with the Governor and we do need to cut your hair, but I am getting ready to have a nervous breakdown first.” She explained that she had been way too busy, that she had no clue when anything was going to happen, that the servants had secret knowledge about things like when a guard would be on duty or not or the house would have water or not, but that she felt totally clueless. She laid down on the bed in utter exhaustion and tried to imagine how she might restructure things to make them seem more manageable. He came and laid down beside her and told her his life was no bowl of cherries either, and she was just one of many other potential breakdowns on his list. He wanted to know if they could both go to the looney bin together, and she said yes that would be fine.

After about 20 minutes of resting she said she now had the strength to cut his hair and they should go do it because he was leaving the next day. She didn’t want him to look unkempt for such an important meeting with the Governor.

They went into the bathroom and fell into an animated discussion of life as she used the electric shears to form his hair into a trim shape. She told him how difficult his hair was to cut as he had a very uncooperative cowlick, not to mention the clippers seemed to trim unevenly. After about 20 minutes she had him looking pretty good and just needed to touchup one small area. They were carrying on a lively discussion and she felt less like she was going to have a nervous breakdown. She was so close to being finished that she didn’t really look at the clippers. As she trimmed away he noticed the No.4 trim guide that maintained the ¼-inch long length of his hair was lying next to him on the counter, and she realized after cutting 6 inches of hair that a lot of hair was coming off of his head. Then she realized she had actually trimmed a 2-inch wide, 6-inch long swathe of hair down to his scalp. They both began to laugh and cry simultaneously—poor Esperando he now looked like some serious gang member. What would the governor think? She did know all that laughing made her nervous breakdown go away.

The morale of this tale is always take your haircutting responsiblities seriously and don’t get lost in deep conversations until you have finished your work.

September 6, 2008

What a difference a day makes

5 pm -- first “real” company guests arrive from the Vancouver office
I turn on ice making machine on at 5 pm so ice will be ready for drinks at 6 pm
During cocktails cook comes charging out of the kitchen practically in tears
Little red ants swarming over the counter next to the stove
These ants bite hard cook says.
I mop up the ants up with Clorox wipes
Cook asks me for talcum powder to discourage ants
I spend hours trying to locate can of talcum powder which I unpacked and put somewhere
Cook empties the entire cupboard and dusts with talcum powder
Despite unplanned kitchen episode, dinner is delicious, shrimp Mexican style
Carry empty plates back into kitchen
Have cheesecake Cook made 5 days ago and kept in fridge until now
Convince cook to use dishwasher so I can put drink glasses in later
Cook leaves at 7:30 pm
Realize cook has turned washer on when she left, turn it off so I can put drink glasses in later
Guests and I sit out on back porch partying until 8 pm then go to bed
I go around house locking five outside doors and turning on outside lights
Turn off ice machine
I go to bed
Wake up wired at 4:30 in the morning and feed pets
Take bath and get dressed
Go out to kitchen at 6 am and make coffee, set the table
Coffee pot on the blink, takes an hour to make coffee
Go around house turning off outside lights and unlocking doors
7 am cook arrives
Tell assembled guests breakfast options: cereal, omelet, eggs and toast, bacon, fruit
We want huevos rancheros-can't we have huevos rancheros? they say
Cook makes huevos rancheros
8 am maid arrives and tells me we will not have water for all day.
City has turned the water off, unannounced
Water will also be turned off all day on Monday
I decide Koreans better stay in hotel on Monday, not here.
Call office and tell them to make hotel reservation for Koreans on Monday.
Call office back and tell them Koreans arrive on Sunday, add day to previous reservation
How do we clean without water the maid asks?
I feel copeless, I say I don’t know
Water issue sinks in—no water to flush
2 pm the office guys finally get locally hired water truck to dump water in our tanks
Tell cook to make fruit plates for lunch
Guest and I have a lunch of fruit and cottage cheese
Tell guest I am going to take a nap and off we go to our respective rooms
Lie down
Phone rings and it is some guy I can’t understand
Walk around to the other side of the house and hand the phone to the maid
She talks to the guy on the phone and tells me it is the phone company
Want to come check our internet connection but are afraid of the dog
They will come right away
We wait 15 minutes
They show up in an hour
No nap
The cook returns at 3
Guest is has fallen ill, Montezuma’s revenge
I tell staff, no Koreans are staying but we will have bbq on Monday night as planned
4 pm the two maids leave for the day
5 pm turn ice machine back on for drinks

24 little hours

September 5, 2008

Feeling connected

Boy, oh boy, here come the guests— a full house of Korean investors! I have an extra helper for this week to assist the cook and the housekeeper. They have been polishing up the house within an inch of it life. I could never manage to do all this by myself without being utterly exhausted, but its hard managing all the details. I have been making list after list of things to do, who’s doing what as well as when and what has to be done. I have a carpenter here putting frosted windows in the bathrooms and replacing doorknobs for those lacking a key, the plumber here because the tub in one guestroom has extremely hot water and we have to fix it before our guests arrive, the air conditioner has failed again in the living room. The water is off one minute and on the next. Who knows what will happen next? This will be an extra busy week. Starting Sunday, the Koreans are here two days--Monday night we are having a big Korean bbq with the kim chee we brought.

I have actually been pretty amazed at the variety offered in the stores in what initially appeared to have been a very small town with very little to offer. I just ordered an emergency patio set from a local store which is being delivered today. We have been working to get uniforms for the household help. These have to be ordered in San Diego and brought down, they will take about a week to arrive. Then we get them embroidered locally with the Boleo logo.

Some chairs and a coffee table ordered from La Paz are still missing from the living room, but the coffee table for our sitting room is being loaned out there until the real one arrives. Full length wall mirrors are coming from Tijuana. I need a lot more small dishes, like for appetizers or dessert, small bowls, a sugar and creamer, but those I have to get in Loreto. We have an abundance of hibiscus flowers—double red, double white, single pink, single orange, and single yellow with orange edging— for guest rooms and the dining table; the cook can squeeze oranges to make fresh orange juice (its excellent!); Every night I wake up at 1 a.m. and think about everything until I can finally get back to sleep at 4 am. Actually I am not thinking, I just lie there in a stupefied but non slumberous daze. Last night was finally able to I sleep through the night only to be awakened by the His Majesty the Cat at 4 am for his royal breakfast.

Well I didn’t get this posted two days ago, so much has happened, but tonite I finally got an internet connection in my house. I am so excited I’ll probably surf all nite. I actually have cancelled the Koreans visit here. We are having water issues and the last thing I need is not for them to be able to bathe or flush the toilet. We will probably still go ahead with the bbq. I need to start marinating the meat tomorrow morning. Esperando will be back early Sunday morning. I can handle just about anything if he is here—and I have the internet too!

September 2, 2008

Surfing with the cardons

Monday has returned as it always does and the Texican has taken off to Vancouver. Oh woe, sad me—abandoned! Just one house guest, I hope we don’t get tired of each other.

Yesterday Esperando and I had a fine day at the beach at Punto Chivato, a gringo colony of about 50 nice vacation homes on a secluded beach south of here set back from the highway. We had looked at it when we first arrived as a possible place to live. The Architect who remodeled Casa Boleo has built quite a few homes there and gave us a tour of one of them back then; that is how we ended up having him remodel Casa Boleo. We thought about getting a house there facing the beach, but the houses are really close to the surf and we were worried the house might get wiped out in a bad storm. Also it is only seasonally occupied and I didn’t much like being so isolated when Esperando was at work.

The drive there normally takes 45 minutes, but it took us about an hour because the dirt road was badly washed out from the effects of Julio. Picture this: we are driving along the road thick on both sides with cardons (big cactuses that look like saguaros). We can’t go very fast as the road is really rough. All of a sudden 50 vultures perched on top of the cardons in front of us spread their wings to sun simultaneously. It was quite a sight, but the photographer was too slow to capture it.

There is a very upscale Italian hotel there (the owner is Italian and the hotel caters to Italians) which we thought to have a look at, but the owner greeted us as we drove in and told us it had closed for the season and wouldn’t open for another 6 weeks. He told us where to find the beaches. They were very nice small beaches with soft fine sand and pleasantly warm water. The dog went with us, he got quite worried when I started wading out to sea. When I got out far enough to squat down and be totally submersed, it was too much for him and he started out to save me. He doesn’t like getting wet as a Lab would, so I stood up to show him I was safe, and he turned back around and went to the beach.

One of the interesting sights was the cardons that had been uprooted and washed onto the beach from the storm and were rolling around in the surf. Instead of your usual driftwood there was cactus driftwood, something a bit different.

August 30, 2008

Chowing down in Casa Boleo

Friday approaches. The Cowboy arrived today with his usual gusto and the dog was happy to see him. The Storyteller and the Cowboy are two of the dog’s favorite people since he lived in Bolivia and Idaho with each of them for extended periods. The dog had not seen the Storyteller for many years and he cried like a baby and wouldn’t stop for about 20 minutes, then he spent the next 3 days lying outside the Storyteller’s door or under his desk. He must think the Storyteller was his original owner.

I have decided that the cook will use her own recipes for a while. I gave her a stuffed bell pepper recipe, and if I do say so the Spanish translation was quite understandable. I asked her to wait while I showed her how to make it, but she took off on her own. I fortunately entered to kitchen just as she was starting to brown the ground beef. I quickly put a halt to that and told her she had to mix ALL the ingredients together: onion, shredded cheese, canned tomatoes, bread, garlic, and eggs with the beef and not cook it separately, but stuff the peppers with the mixture then cook them as a whole. When I came back to the kitchen, she was stuffing the peppers, but the cheese was cut into half-inch cubes, and so I told her she had to take the cheese out and grate it. Finally we got that part done and I left her to bake them in the oven. Esperando arrived and at dinner time I went back to discover she had boiled them all, not baked them. They survived her brutal treatment, but better she use familiar recipes until I have more time to supervise—we’ll just have to suffer through endless meals of delicious fattening Mexican cuisine. She is a fabulous cook left to her own devices. So far we have had corn soup, tortilla soup, scallops with garlic sauce, flautas and tonite we are having carne asada. I have discovered if we barely eat breakfast and lunch, we can have some of dinner without gaining weight.

I brought a Panasonic breadmaker here and we have just had our fourth loaf using the manufacturer’s French bread recipe. It is delicious, although we have been sampling the local French bread from the El Boleo bakery and it is really good too. The cook and the maid like the bread so well thay have asked if they can each take a loaf home with them this weekend. Mike had a stroke of genius buying a countertop ice making machine. It works really well. The only problem we have had so far is that I relocated it to a different countertop and both of us have gone to look for ice inside the breadmaker.

Today the house is literally crawling with workmen to repair the rain damage wrought by the storm in time for the Big Boss’ arrival on Sunday, except now the Big Boss and entourage are not coming after all. Our next houseful will be on the 7th when we will have a full house of Korean visitors. The Canadians are bringing some chopsticks down to make them feel at home, and off course we have the Kim Chee (cabbage marinated in garlic and hot peppers) that we trailered down here in our ice chest. The hammering, sawing, jackhammering and the paint fumes are a bit overwhelming.

It is beautiful outside today. The view from my office window is great. I can see the ocean is a deep violet blue with the brilliant magenta blossoms of the bougainvillea showy in front of it.

August 26, 2008

There's gonna be a floody, floody, floody

Sunday we found out that our next guest would not be arriving as his flight has been diverted to Hermosillo because the Loreto airport was swamped by Tropical Depression Julio. Of course Sunday is the staff’s day off, but we had been grazing on leftover chile rellenos all day. We had noticed many clouds that morning and the air had become remarkably more humid, but we just didn’t give it much thought. Now was our first inkling of impending trial by water.

The internet still isn’t working at our house so we got Hermana and Junior Birdman fired up to fed us some weather info from the internet which described sustained winds from 50 to 85 mph with the storm moving north at 12 mph. The evening was pleasantly cooler, and we spend a good part of it having cocktails and watching the guys with sailboats out in the breakwater tying their boats down. After dinner of yet more chile rellenos we went to bed. I had a hard time getting to sleep wondering what we were in for. At midnight the first serious rain started to fall. About 3 AM I went to see what was happening around the house and that’s when I found the laundry room inundated and water pouring in the back door. The architect had poured the slab level with the door and it was slanting in toward the house. I got Esperando out of bed and we started mopping. Soon Monday morning arrived, but not any household help! They were all in town mopping out their houses. As the wind shifted so did our mopping. We mopped continuously all day in the kitchen, in the living room, the laundry room --and finally our bedroom when the wind truly came up and threw sheets of water under the French doors. The paint on the walls started to bubble with water blisters which grew to 5 or more inches before bursting and spewing water down the walls in the hall, our bedroom and the living room.

It rained like it had in Panama, a tropical deluge of warm heavy rain. The army came in downtown to protect people from crossing the streets. The main east-west thoroughfare here is called El Arroyo and when it rains here that’s where the water runs. Yesterday it had about a foot of running water in it. Ambulances and fire trucks raced around with sirens blaring and car alarms went off. We probably had 6-8 inches that fell at our house in about 24 hours, but were protected from most of the wind until the last 3-4 hours. At about 6 pm, just in time for dinner, the wind stopped, the waves calmed and the rain stopped falling actually rather abruptly. Finally a rest for the weary moppers.

First guests

Saturday night Esperando and I had our first houseguest, the Storyteller from Prince Edward Island. He is a long time friend from many past projects. He forgot to bring the moonshine he said he set aside on his desk to pack, but we had lots of tequila and beer.

We had invited 6 people to come for dinner. In the morning I taught the cook how to make Ann Ward’s chocolate chip bundt cake so she will be able to do that next time we have a party. We kept trying to make the cake then realized that part of the ingredients were in the pantry where the workman were jackhammering a concrete block out. We finally managed to get the those ingredients organized, then realized that we were missing Kahlua. Senor Jueves went to the store to get that and sour cream (which comes in a tin can and isn’t refrigerated, isn’t as sour as in the U.S., and is more runny.) I wasn’t sure if it would work. Then we figured out how to set the oven (fortunately the guide was in English and Spanish) and put the cake in to cook. After an hour the cook came to tell me she was worried about the cake. I looked in and it hadn’t cooked at all—the oven wasn’t even working! Our first big dinner and no oven, oh my!

The architect was here fixing some stuff so I asked him if he could check why it wasn’t working. After about 2 hours he and the electrician finally found some valve that hadn’t been opened, and voila we were open for business after all. After sitting around mixed and waiting for the oven for 4 hours with weird sour cream that maybe wouldn’t work either I wasn’t sure what the cake would do, but it had a mind of its own and rose to the occasion. We had dinner for 6 people and the cook made fabulous chile rellenos for dinner along with beans and rice. We gave her a standing ovation when she brought the tortillas to the table. The cook is a really lucky find and we are happy to have her.

August 22, 2008

We are here

We have been here 2 days now. I was hoping we would have better internet access (as opposed to none yet in the house)so I could start blogging, but whatever. It is just as hot and humid as I remember from the last time. The most amazing thing was the temperature was around 77F for our whole drive down until we were 30 minutes away from Santa Rosalia when the temperature climbed to 102F, dropping back to 97F by the time we got to Santa Rosalia. Everything has gone pretty smoothly. My two domestic helpers, the Cook and the House Maid have been great and I have the added bonus of Senor Viernes II whom I will call Senor Jueves since he showed up yesterday to help move heavy stuff, get groceries, assemble furniture and do other odd jobs.

Our first guest will show up Saturday and we are having a small dinner party for 6 then who are not guests but are heavy drinkers. We will have to make a tequila run. The architect pointed out we have to add the most important loteria card to one of the rooms--El Borracho. We have nominated the guest bathroom for that distinction. Dog and cat have settled in well. I'm not sure what the roses think, but at least they are still alive. Our personal stuff that used to be in the trailer but had to be hauled down separately after all should arrive tonite. It got taken apart at customs, so I am worried what won't be there. I am missing odd stuff from the original guesthouse shipment, unfortunately. At some point when I have a real internet connection I will rehash our trip down here. But for now I'm back to the guesthouse and lunch.

August 12, 2008

Our last day in Denver

Tuesday came and went. I got the pet health certificates which was no big deal, while Esperando went to the foot doctor and then picked up prescriptions. We crossed vehicular paths at Sycracuse Street and waved to each other. Then I came home for my nap while the Texican did more stuff. I felt a little guilty getting a massage and pedicure while Esperando packed the truck up, but its really helped my arm and leg alot today.

Now it is Wednesday. The dentist took an hour of my time this morning, then I ran errands before getting back home. We just finished packing up the trailer which is completely full to the hilt, its just amazing. The truck is going to be likewise as full as possible. I really feel like the Beverly Hillbillies. I am soooooooooooooooo tired of packing, the worst is knowing that unpacking, both our personal stuff and all the guesthouse accoutrements awaits on the other end. Everything that needs to go in the truck now is all last minute stuff--boy there's alot of that too. It is only 3:30, I still need to mop the floor, feed the pets, make dinner, and then we are done for the evening I hope I hope until packing the rest of it in tomorrow morning. We plan to leave at 5 am, it will be a stretch, but I guess it will happen. We will stop in Taos for coffee with Hermana & Company, then proceed to Albuquerque in time for a nap, or at least in time to feed the Pickle Brothers (my new name for the pets, the dog is Sweet Pickle and the cat is Sour Pickle.) Sweet Pickle is highly perturbed, he senses a big change is in the air.

August 11, 2008

D-Day minus 3

Ok the heat is turning up. I feel I have to get EVERYTHING loose packed up today, because tomorrow I will be busy cleaning the house from stem to stern, taking pets for health certificates and having a MASSAGE. I suppose there is really not an exceptional amount to pack but I feel like there are a lot of loose ends yet which I don't have under control--I almost forgot to pack a swimsuit for instance! Of course I am starting the day off in great form with a roaring case of hayfever. Arrrrrrrrgh.

Today Esperando goes to the doctor and gets his final ok for the trip. We have our fingers crossed that that will be the case and that some new wrinkle doesn't develop that delays us again. I also have my final trip to the dentist today although he could squeeze me in on Wednesday, but I really hope that doesn't happen, I just don't have the time.

We had a pleasant little interlude up in the mountains yesterday. Lunch and a little gambling at Black Hawk--I actually won and walked away with $50! Not my normal luck, but really good luck. It casts the week ahead in a positive light.

I also feel my mind shifting from worry about our immediate trip and am casting my thoughts ahead to worry about Casa Boleo. Our first corporate guests (huespedes) will descend on us shortly after we arrive, I think about the end of August. Esperando is making noises about going to La Paz to stock up on food, as well as coupling that with a trip he needs to make to Cabo. Ordinarily that would sound like fun, but it will rob me of some of the time I need to get the guesthouse ready. Additionally the cook and maid have to be organized, I need to come up with a monthly menu, and I also need to start our account with Dali (the restaurant supplier in Loreto). Then it struck me I will have to make an inventory of food so I can keep up with what we are using or not. I think managing the food end of this thing is going to be my worst frustration, not knowing how many guests we will need to feed for dinner, what their food requirements are, if they stay to eat or change their minds at the last minute and go out to dinner (like we did to the staff several times at the Newmont guesthouse in Ghana), how to manage leftovers, etc. Anyway my first huespedes I am sorry to say will be the guinea pigs and they will be coming SOON!

Enough! Enough! I am off to organize breakfast for the Texican and me. Tonight we will have a final nice dinner out at Elways, a great Denver steakhouse.

August 9, 2008

Getting too close

Well, its been awhile since I posted an entry. Only five more days to go to D-day (Departure day!) I spent today shopping and packing. I have two big rollybags full of girl clothes and shoes, I'm sure I won't wear half of it, but I also have to be prepared to go to colder places like Vancouver occasionally. I wish I knew for sure what winter in Baja will be like. I saw where it got down to the mid 40s for about a week last year, that coupled with no heating in the houses could make winter a bit chilly. Looks like mostly it is in the 60s.

We both have a few more doctor's appointments next week, sandwiched between packing up final boxes of kitchen stuff and paintings, loading up the truck which we see as a two day affair, and miscellaneous stuff such as pet health certificates and making sure the wire transfer for the down payment on our house actually makes it to our new bank account in Santa Rosalia (or we will be having a hard time buying our house.)

Denver has had some crazy weather in the last few days. We had quite a thunderstorm last night which resulted in lots of rain downtown, enough to flood some of the streets and the freeway. Thirty people had to be rescued from cars or streams where their cars or bicycles were engulfed The night before when there was a tornado alert (including civil alert sirens going off) my neighbor and I actually watched the clouds rotating off to the south. She's from Oklahoma and knows about these tornado things and thought it was scary.

We are planning to go up to Blackhawk in the mountains and do a little gambling and have a nice lunch tomorrow. Time is running out!! Starting Monday we have 3 days before we hit the road. Our first stop will be in Albuquerque for some good enchiladas, two days of fun in El Paso with Esperando's brother, then on to San Diego for two days before we hit the border at Tijuana and spend the next two days driving down to Santa Rosalia.

The tidal wave is approaching.

August 1, 2008


Lately, ever since I got my nightguard for my mouth, I have been having the wierdest dreams. The dentist filed it down a bit on Wednesday and they haven't been quite so strange, but still I am dreaming more than I used to. According to the dentist it is really common to have wierd dreams, he says he is changing my whole sleep pattern.

My first dream involved Esperando calling to me to observe some cute little dog, saying he wanted one. In my dream I thought, "oh brother here we go again!", because he is always wanting some cute little animal. When I looked down here was this cute fully grown 2-inch high dog running around and barking. It was spotted like a Dalmation but had long hair. I said, "wow, that really IS cute!"

Then I noticed a diminutive little car, in scale to the dog, like a Model-T Ford with sort of a striped awning top on it, and some grownups and little kids riding inside. I want to pick up the whole shebang, but realized they were actually real and no doubt be insulted at this kind of interference. I wondered where they lived and why I hadn't seen them before.

Then this morning when I was out walking the dog, there they were, not the dog but the people. They were normal sized but were driving down the sidewalk in the park in some kind elaborate Model-T bicycle complete with awning--3 adults and about 4 or 5 kids. This thing had fenders like a Model-T but bicycle wheels, and they were pedaling it. The bicycle wheels were spaced apart like a car's wheels and there were two in the front and two in the back and it was as wide as a golf cart with seats and about 1 1/2 times the length of a golf car. I've never seen this thing before, so how did I go dreaming about it? There must be some kind of magic in the air today.

We are now on record for the longest period of over 90F in Denver since 1906. Yesterday, Day No. 18, broke the record and there is no end in sight. Today and tomorrow are supposed to top 100F. It is very dry and hasn't rained here for a couple of months unless you count an occasional 5 minute sprinkle.

Poor Esperando had to have some minor surgery yesterday and is suffering from dejavu. He is grounded for another 10 days, so we will be putting off our move to Baja by a bit. He slept most of yesterday from the anesthesia, but today is chatting his head off on the phone and working up a blue streak. I am going to abandon him at noon for lunch with the neighbor girls.

July 25, 2008

Here we go round again

Yesterday Esperando went to the Mexican consulate here in the Mile High City to get our valued inventory of household goods stamped properly so we will have a minimum of problems going through customs in Tijuana. This included 4 copies of: his passport; his FM3; our list of things (translated into Spanish); proof of residence in Denver; and proof of residence in Santa Rosalia. He didn't get everything exactly right so he had to come back and redo some things, and go back again. We are told the papers will be ready for us on Tuesday.

In the afternoon he got an email from our Man Friday (Señor Viernes) in Santa Rosalia telling us the shipment of stuff, the 63 boxes, had arrived. Much of the stuff had be taken out of the boxes and was loose, about a third of the boxes had been "disassembled." We were sent a photo by Señor Viernes that somewhat represents the loose stuff. Smart me, I had a list of what was in what box and could go through the list he sent of still intact boxes and figure out what had been taken out of its box, and I assumed, was gone forever. It was pretty staggering. But it turns out the custom broker is the one that had to take EVERYTHING out of its box, and itemize each item with a special code for customs before it could be cleared. Nothing is any longer in its original box, so I will have no clue where to look for things once I get to Casa Boleo. It will be a while before I know if anything is missing. It will be really annoying not to know exactly what box to go to get this or that thing. Life is getting pretty interesting.

Today Esperando and I made the bold move. We went and bought the double axle 6x12 trailer to haul our things down to Santa Rosalia. Normally I would have been opposed to this, but since we are convoying with another couple also pulling a trailer we won't be able to go very fast anyway. The other couple has no air conditioning in their car since they are Canadians and wouldn't need it Canada. I hope they don't die of heat driving down to Baja. Today the weather was 90F and 47% humidity in Baja. They are bringing a small dog with them. I hope the small dog doesn't die too. After purchasing and driving away the trailer, we went and picked up the new sofa set and two queen mattresses.

After the mishap with the other shipment, Esperando talked to the customs broker who will be muscling our stuff through customs (same guy as before.) This should save us alot of grief. He advised all our used household goods go in the trailer as we are allowed a one time deal to bring in used household stuff. This is the stuff that gets inspected at the border and makes it or doesn't. We have a new TV, a new wine refrigerator, and new sofa set we are hoping will pass for used since we took them out of the original wrappings and scuffed them a bit. If they don't make it, I don't know what happens to them or us. The customs broker will be kind enough to shuttle our case of whiskey back and forth two bottles at a time so we meet our quota there.

The stuff we plan to carry in the truck is new and we are allowed, $500 per person or pay duty (20%) on the excess, but if it is over by too much (we are not sure what that number is) then the duty apparently is outrageous. The truck will have our clothes, lots of pet food, cat litter, the Cuisinart, Esperando's new saw, electrical wiring stuff and ceiling fans for Casa Abeja. We are also hauling food (can you believe two giant jars of kim chee—Korean marinated cabbage—for our Korean visitors that must be refrigerated); pinto beans, coffee, and tea.

We spent the few hours after lunch wrapping the TV, refrigerator and parts of the sofa set with plastic to protect it. The TV is especially well wrapped, I hope they don't unwrap it in customs!! I just tried to take a nap but I am way too wired to sleep, so I write this with a tired but wired brain.

Still have to finish packing all the lots of little things and my clothes, although I made a start on the clothes yesterday. The storm clouds are gathering!