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.