August 31, 2009

Hurricanes and kittens

Yesterday Esperando said to me, ‘Ah, here comes Hurricane Jimena.’ At that point, Jimena was beating off the coast down by Acapulco, too far out to sea to be much of a threat. She was so far away I didn’t expect to hear anything about her for another week. Today a day later, Jimena is imminently nearby and will be here tomorrow night. She is currently projected as a Category 4 hurricane which sounds pretty awful. The news is that La Paz got a lot of water yesterday. San Carlos on the Pacific is the targeted landfall; they got whopped up last year by Hurricane Norbert. It seems unfair they should have two such nasty weather events within 8 months of one another. We have to develop a wait and see attitude, we are far enough up the peninsula that often hurricanes fall off their projected path before they make it this far. In any event I have ordered lots of flashlight batteries and 5 big jugs of drinking water just in case we are left without water or electricity. I have told the girls that if it is raining tomorrow morning when they get up not to bother coming to work. We were to have a full guesthouse, we have told people about the hurricane and flights will probably be cancelled. I just don’t want to have to look after a house full of people with no electricity (i.e., no water or lights), no household help and no cook!

Yesterday before we knew anything about impending hurricanes we went to the beach at Punto Chivato. We went to the shell beach as I hadn’t been there for at least the last 7 months and thought the time might be ripe for good seashell gathering. The first time I went there, about this same time last year, there were millions of beautiful whole shells carefully stacked upon one another in a cache near the rocks. Yesterday the tide was extremely high and the first 15 feet of surf was churning brown dirt. On closer inspection it turned out to be a masses of seaweed grossing up the water. It looked very unappealing and since the shell offerings weren’t particularly auspicious, we got back in the car and drove to Santa Inez in hopes the water would be more swimmable. There were bits of seaweed floating here and there too, but nothing like it had been at Punta Chivato. The water was inviting although the surf was rough. There was enough of a breeze that we could sit on the beach under the umbrella with a foray out to the surf every 20 minutes to cool off again. So we spent the morning frolicking in the waves, Esperando tried out his new kayak but found the surf too rough for it to be very enjoyable, then we ate our lunch (downed with a few beers) and rested between swims. ‘Is it true that you shouldn’t go swimming after you eat, that you might get cramps?’ we asked ourselves and decided it was an old wives tale, but when we got home we just had to look on the internet. It is just as we suspected, not true. If you are of a certain age look back on all those times as a child that you had to wait out your lunch for an hour before you could go back in the water. Isn’t it a shame that you had to mind then?

My friend, the mother of Don Diego, was here visiting me the other day and mentioned that she needed a kitten for her ranch. So I asked the girls if they knew of any nice kittens that might be available and immediately they said, ‘oh yes there is a beautiful white kitten with blue eyes that hangs out where my brother works.’ When they tried to grab it, it apparently scratched everyone and they couldn’t catch it. I fear I may be giving my friend a bunch of trouble and that this kitten is not very tame. She is coming by in an hour to pick it up, and I am still waiting for it to show up. I hope this works out for the best, in that no one has come with the kitten by now, my gut feeling is the kitten is not cooperating with the whole business of being caught.

I remember last time we had a weather event, it was last August when Tropical Disturbance Julio came through. Esperando and I spent 24 hours mopping up the house as water came in from every direction, first from one side, then when the storm shifted, from the other. It was pretty exhausting. Since then we have taken some measures to make the house more waterproof, but who knows.

August 28, 2009

Cook-With-An-Attitude Goes on Vacation

New Cook (left) and Cook-With-An-Attitude (right) preparing food for a party at the guesthouse.

I prepare a weekly menu for supper at the guesthouse. When we have a full house and are entertaining visitors, I try to make the meals more elaborate and don’t watch the calories too seriously. When it is just the three of us who live here most the time, we are constantly dieting or at least trying to keep from gaining weight, so our meals consist of a starter of light soup followed by chicken, fish or shrimp served up with some vegetable. It gets pretty boring, but if we stick to it we do pretty well weight-wise. This week with everyone gone to meetings in the USA it was just me eating here alone.

I think I mentioned that we have New Cook for the interim since Cook-With-An-Attitude (the regular cook) is on vacation. New Cook cleans the kitchen scrupulously including the floor, throws out old food, and bags up new food so it won’t go bad fast—a big failing of Cook-With-An-Attitude. However it is probably a good thing we don’t have any guest guinea pigs—just me, for her cooking is untried! New Cook is a very large lady, who dwarfs Cook-With-An-Attitude (who is not a petite little thing). New Cook went on a diet, I don’t know when but I think somewhat recently, and lost 50 pounds so she is full of dietitious ideas for making low calorie meals and keeps proffering them to me. In the spirit of seeing what her recipes taste like I have been sampling some of her offerings and varying the menu a bit.

Yesterday I decided to blow the diet for the day and had requested chile relleños, a good test to compare their cooking I thought since Cook-With-An-Attitude makes excellent chile relleños, seemingly effortlessly. If you don’t know what a chile relleño is, it is a tasty Mexican dish where the chiles are roasted, skinned and seeded; filled with cheese; coated with a beaten flour-and-egg batter; and sautéed until the batter is golden and the cheese has melted. They are then covered with a tomato-chile salsa. While they aren’t skinny food, they could probably be much worse. My mouth was all set for my chile relleño lunch.

Earlier that morning Senor Jueves, our errand boy, came to me to ask for help. One of the perks for the maids and him is sometimes breakfast (usually cold cereal) and a hot meal during the day prepared by the cook. However no one had told this to New Cook and she was declining to prepare any food for anyone. I had to go out to the kitchen and explain to her that she had to feed everyone a lunch. “Oh,” she said, “no one told me.” I thought this was a little strange as she has been here subbing as a maid for the last two months and would seemingly have been included in these meals that Cook-With-An-Attitude was preparing for everyone else.

About an hour later I went out to the kitchen where New Cook was assembling a ground beef filling for five bell peppers, freshly cleaned and standing at attention on the counter. Hmm, I thought, still not taking it all in and mentally counting on my fingers, why five? There are two maids, Senor Jueves and her. Then I told her the guard is not included in the people we feed for lunch. Ok, she said. A bit later I could smell chiles roasting so I still felt reassured my chile relleño was on track. Lunchtime rolled around and I was presented with a stuffed bell pepper, which we had already eaten earlier in the week with my recipe. “This is different,” she said, “this is my recipe.” I should have kept an open mind, but I was annoyed. It has made me really appreciate Cook-With-An-Attitude, whose sometimes pouty way of behaving is compensated for by cooking what I tell her to.

“Ah,” I said, “but I wrote chile relleño on the menu, not pimenton (bell pepper) relleño. They are different things,” I said. “You need to prepare what I put on the menu and not change it.”

“Oh,” she said, “I didn’t know, I thought you wanted diet food.”

“No,” I said, “sometimes I don’t want diet food, you need to follow what the menu says. See here on the menu I wrote chile relleño!” I explained, “A chile relleño is a roasted poblano, filled with cheese, dipped in egg batter and fried—it is not a bell pepper stuffed with ground beef.”

She looked at me like she’d never heard of a chile relleño before. “It is a Mexican thing,” I said, “comida tipica.”

Again I got the deer in the headlights look, but she said, “I know how to make those too. You always want to be skinny so I made this instead.”

It just didn’t seem to be sinking in. I felt like I was beating my head against the wall. I went back out to the dining table and begrudgingly ate my stuffed pepper. It was way too much food and there was lots of cheese in it. It certainly did not have any fewer calories than the chile relleño would have had, and in my anger I ate it all. I had gained a pound the next morning. Fortunately Cook-With-An-Attitude will be back early next week and I will welcome her with open arms. I won’t have that food Nazi, New Cook, trying to re-organize me and my recipes.

August 27, 2009

Cat Psychology

Today I heard a funny thud-thud-thud noise coming from the bathroom. It sounded like something reverberating in the bathtub. Sweet Pickle who was lying at my feet, and Sour Pickle who was lying on his cat perch beside me, both looked toward the bathroom although they did not seem to be alarmed. I couldn’t imagine what could make that kind of noise and I was almost afraid to go look. When I went into the bathroom the curtain was drawn across the tub as the maid left it. I shut the bathroom door so whatever it was couldn’t escape and slowly peered behind the curtain—and there was Frida! She had found a large marble-sized superball and was bouncing and chasing it around the bathtub. When she realized I was there she tried to run away. I chased her around the toilet and picked her up to pet her for awhile, then she was ok. I put her back down and rolled the ball toward her, and she began to play again.

All day long she has been batting the ball around the house. She picks it up and carries it from place to place. She batted it under the dresser and crawled underneath to chase it. It was a real struggle for her to get underneath as she has gotten so fat. It rolled out from under the dresser seemingly a little blue ball with a mind of its own. I rolled it back to her. She rolled it back to me with an uncanny aim. I rolled it back to her. This went on for about 10 minutes until I tired of the game, then she crawled back out to chase it around the room some more. She is a little over a year old now. She is really only pettable at night in the dark when she crawls up on our bed to sleep, or when she is sleeping somewhere else in my bedroom. She runs away from me anywhere else in the house if I approach her. The other one, Carmen, whom I refer as the Little One, is 10 months old now. She is no longer so little. In my absence both Frida and Carmen have ballooned, their caretakers have been feeding them way too much and they both look like role models for the Miss Pampered Piglet contest.

At night, we herd the two feral cats into our bedroom. I guess I hope they will become more accustomed to being around us and that they will grow to like us better.

Even though the animals sleep in our room at night, even in the dark Carmen is afraid of me and runs away. When I get up in the morning and open the bedroom door, she races out into the living room eager to get away. Most days she spends hanging out on top of the broad back of a leather chair where she can look out the window. She is an interesting long-haired tortoiseshell and looks like someone took a paint brush and spattered her gray fur with little speckles of brilliant orange; then her legs have orange stripes laid on top of the gray of her body and her paws are all speckled. She is a really interesting color, but it is hard to notice all this as she runs away so fast you can’t ever get a really good look at the details. She is the one with the funny bent tail.

In the last two days, I decided that perhaps we don’t need a such feral cat inside, and I should invite her to go live outside with the other two outdoor cats. I sequestered the rest of the animals in my bedroom and opened the front door. I went across the room up the stairs to the living room area until I was standing across from Carmen who was lying on the leather chair; there was a coffee table between us. I said, “Would you rather go outside and live with the outside cats?” Alarmed that I was so close, she jumped off the chair and started across the room. When she got even with the open door she looked outside and sniffed the air, then crept very very s l o w l y past the outside door. She acted is if she walked slowly enough perhaps the outside wouldn’t reach out and grab her!

Yesterday I tried to corner Carmen in the bathroom where she was retching. I had shut the door behind me so she couldn’t get out. Around and around she raced to get away from me, then she hissed violently at me and started issuing the deep wailing meows of a seriously disturbed cat. I was afraid to try and touch her and I let her out of the room. They do say some feral kittens can never be tamed and I am afraid she is one of those. It seems after I backed off in the bathroom the she is less frightened of me and comes closer to observe me at times. She actually crawled up on the bed with the other cats and the dog early this morning. I just don’t know what to make of this cat.

August 26, 2009

Plagued in Santa Rosalia

Esperando is traveling—he was in Vancouver last week, the Bay Area this week, then back home on Friday. Life is not dull though, no sir. When he is gone, that is when we like to have the unusual crises arise. It’s much more fun when I get to solve problems all on my own (I wonder if this is why I’ve had a nervous tic in my eye ever since he left town?)

Last week one of the maids came to me and said, “Senora, there are beetles in the bodega.” As proof she brought me this dead little bug that was about ¼-inch long and black. It didn’t look too terrifying. She didn’t act as excited as I did when I saw them all. All the bags of beans in the bodega were infected with these horrid little beetles which were chewing their way out of their bags and flying around the bodega and laundry room crawling up the walls, and biting the maids when they tried to clean them up. We’re talking hundreds of the little suckers, what they call a plaga (plague) down here. I always wondered about plagas when you read about them in the Bible they sort of make your skin crawl and we do get them in the USA, but they seem much more in-your-face down here. Apparently one of the girls in the office downtown got a good price on bags of beans a month ago or so at some local discount grocery store and purchased a bunch for the guesthouse, so we had about 8 or 9 one-pound bags of beans stacked in the storeroom, hatching out simultaneously before our very eyes.

I tried spraying them with some insecticide we had, but it had no effect on them, they continued milling around in circles on the shelves, spreading around the room and flying into the laundry area. I raced to the kitchen and called Esperando’s secretary.

“Quick, we need Fumigator Man! There are beetles hatching out all over the bodega.” I said with great passion.

“When do you want him there,” she asked.

“Immediately!” I said, “This an emergency.”

“Ok, but when do you want him to come?” She asked.

“As soon as he can,” I responded, wondering what about ‘emergency’ and ‘immediately’ did not indicate that he should come as fast as he could.

“Ok, but when, well, ok, it’s urgent, I will call and see when he can come.” Said she, ‘Thank God,’ I thought, ‘I finally got through to her.’

So we cleared shelves and shelves of food out of the bodega, threw the bags of beans away, and got Fumigator Man in at noon. According to him he had already been over to that same store that the beans were purchased from sometime before, spraying it for the same bugs. They were not so common a pest that he sees here, so he put 2+2 together about where the beans were purchased. It’s kind of cool having a Fumigator Man that knows all the hot gossip about whose got plagas and stuff. I guess he is not bound by any code of ethics not to reveal these things, as say a doctor might be. He told us never to buy beans, rice or sugar at that store. I don’t know why we even shopped there in the first place, I always think we are going to the better grocery stores so I was appalled to find out the control of food in the house has slipped between my fingers. (Well I was gone for 3 months, so it is hard to control things when you are gone—and I probably would have been happy for those beans being a good deal, not knowing what I know now about them.) The girls told me after Fumigator Man left that this was a bad store, so I guess everyone else in town must know this. Why did we buy beans there in the first place if everyone knows this?

After he sprayed the house (it was Friday noon), I sent the maids and the cook home. The fumes were overpowering and reached almost to my bedroom and made one of the cats throw up. Saturday it still smelled strongly so the girls didn’t come then either. Fumigator Man said not to clean the laundry room until Monday. That meant I paid two days of wages for no employees, plus the cost of fumigating, plus the cost of taking all the food off the shelves and then putting it all back again. Kind an expensive price for rotten beans, huh?

August 25, 2009

Language barriers

This morning, the new cook (who is replacing ours on vacation) and one of the maids, were outside sweeping the patio and the maid wanted to point out a cachorra to me. I thought they were trying to tell me that someone had put yet another puppy in the yard, the word for puppy is cachorro. My mind immediately jumped to the next level and was trying to figure out if I could get one of the maids to adopt this one too. It turns out a cachorra is a gecko. So, we put Sour Pickle the cat in his crate so he couldn’t escape or hurt it and also put Sweet Pickle the dog in his crate so he wouldn’t get in the middle of it. The crates are stacked on top of one another like a condominium complex. With both of them occupied, it is heavy stack to move around. Then we opened the door to the bedroom that leads onto the outside patio. The gecko or cachorra was lurking very close to the door and when the cook leaned over to touch it with a rag, it raced into my room. It was such a tiny delicate thing, no more than 2 inches long with kind of pebbly skin that was sort of transparent. I was so glad it was not another puppy.

We looked everywhere for it. We took the dog out of the crate and sent him out of the room. Then we slid the dog crate around as that is where it appeared to run under, but it was not there. I lifted the crate up—no gecko! Next we moved the couch. I left the room to take a phone call, and when I came back they had found it. In the violence that ensued in moving furniture around to look for it, it had lost a back leg. Poor little thing! I put it back outside in some leaves in the hope that it might recover.

After that I had quite a discussion with the maids and Señor Jueves, who had arrived to get the order for today’s groceries. This is where they clarified for me that cachorra and cachorro were different words, one meaning gecko and the other puppy. Then Señor Jueves popped up with the fact that cachorras were poisonous, this is after I had picked it up and put it outside. Who knows I thought, some salamanders and frogs are poisonous. I went and looked it up on the internet and found that they are not poisonous, but in Mexico local inhabitants often believe they are venomous and have poisonous skin.

This explains what happened when we had the water turned on at Casa Abeja, our antique French house that we are remodeling. When the water guys came and found a couple of geckos by the pipes in the ground they freaked out and started stomping on them; although Esperando tried to get them to stop they seemed unreasonably frightened. I told Señor Jueves, the maids and the cook that those guys were calling them alacran (which is the word for scorpion). No, no, that is a different animal and it is poisonous, they said. So we sorted out that the water men were miscalling the geckos and that a scorpion is a scorpion and not a gecko. It is amazing how you can discuss something to death without ever getting total clarification when you are not speaking a language that you know as well as your own. Now the maid was worried that I didn’t know what a scorpion was so I had to go into my photo file to show her I did know, and I showed her the picture of the scorpion they found at the mine, carrying her babies around on her back. The maid told me their cat kills scorpions. Now in that I have complete confidence in our semi-feral cats Frida and Carmen, they both have a strong hunting instinct. I think they would kill a scorpion, they are fast pouncers and study a thing to death before they make a move. Frida will sit mesmerized for hours in contemplation of a fruit fly on the window. I think Sour Pickle is fast but he doesn’t study things first and he might get stung. We hope we never have to find out.

August 21, 2009

Traveling with your dog in Baja

We have taken our dog Sweet Pickle along in the car from Denver to Santa Rosalia on two trips back and forth in the dead of summer. We have never have had a problem crossing the U.S.-Mexico border in either direction, but we always have his rabies certificate at the ready. Coming through Tijuana this last time we got a green light, but were waved through for inspection anyway, then when they saw the dog we were promptly sent on our way again. We always pack a lunch we can eat along the side of the road, it is too hot at the time of year we have been travelling to leave him behind in the car while we check out some local eatery. He is a good traveler and would rather go on a road trip with us than to stay behind. We find sometimes we get waved through the military checkpoints also when they see we have a dog with us; I guess they don’t want to have to deal with his perceived ferociousness (as in licking you to death). At 60-pounds he is big, so maybe that is what deters everyone.

We always try to get as far as we can in a day. When we leave from San Diego going south into Baja, the Desert Inn at Cataviña is our stop for the night ( then we have 6 more hours to drive the following day to get home to Santa Rosalia). They have a fabulous swimming pool filled with cool spring water set in the middle of a tree-filled courtyard that is surrounded by hotel rooms. It is a real oasis in the midst of an amazing hot desert. At night their generator keeps the air conditioners running. Their restaurant is really good and they don’t stint on the tequila in the Margaritas. If we are driving north, our stop for the evening is the Desert Inn in San Quintin, a modern looking white building with red-tiled roof. It looks right out over the ocean onto a vacant beach, that is great for running a dog. We have talked about staying at the Old Mill there but haven’t yet, the rooms are probably a bit more rustic but the setting is lovely.

It is nice to know there are places you can stay overnight that will take the dog. In a recent discussion in Todos Santos at a cocktail party, we found lots of new places mentioned to stay if you are starting from lower down on the peninsula. In El Rosario Baja Cactus and Mama Espinosas is touted as being a very nice and inexpensive. Guerrero Negro has a go-out-of-your-way-to-eat-there restaurant at the Malarrimo Hotel, but they do not take pets. Again the Desert Inn is recommended by friends. Here in Santa Rosalia the choices are Hotel Francés (historic red lobby is 'papered' in antique bandana cloth print, on the hill serving a great breakfast) Las Casitas (waterfront north of El Morro, no meals available here but great comfortable rooms); and Hotel El Morro (waterfront south edge of town). publishes a list of pet friendly places throughout the Baja peninsula, and based on our familiarity with some of them, their listing seems to be on-target, except for those in Enseñada where every single recommended facility gets really awful reviews on Here we vote for El Rey Sol, a very nice comfortable hotel that also has a wonderful French restaurant just around the corner.

August 20, 2009

Vacation ends tomorrow

View of church tower Mision de Loreto taken from La Mision Hotel at Loreto over the palm trees.

The last night of our vacation we spent in Loreto at La Mision, the newly completed luxury hotel right in the middle of town overlooking the malecon. We had an attractive air-conditioned room on the 3rd floor overlooking the pool and the Sea of Cortez. Their beds are super comfortable and the amenities are nice. The hotel was quite full, mostly with Mexican guests, leftover from participating in the Loreto 400 car race. We were told they were completely full the previous night which had marked the end of the car race. The swimming pool was maxed out with guests, fortunately not lots of children as they tend overwhelm things down here. We were lucky to find the last two lounge chairs, but all the pool towels had evaporated. Esperando and I are pretty sure the hotel has not had to handle so many people at once before, the services seemed kind of stretched to their limit. Two little boys about 8-years old dominated the pool. They had a couple of largish hard plastic toy boats they kept throwing across the water and into the hot tub; they were kind of obnoxious but their parents didn’t seem to notice or care. The hotel must pump water into the pool from the ocean as the water is a brackish mixture of fresh and salt water, and was like being in a warm bathtub. It made me yearn for the cool sweet water and peace and quiet of Casa Bentley’s pool that we left behind us in Todos Santos. And even more, how we miss the nice beachy setup of the defunct Inn at Loreto Bay!

Baja is famous for off-road races occurring throughout the year, most notably the Baja 1000 and Baja 500 car races. The Baja 1000 is the big off-road race that takes place on the Baja peninsula in the fall, generally September. The event includes various types of vehicle classes such as small and large bore motorcycles, stock VW’s, production vehicles, buggies, trucks, and custom-fabricated race vehicles. The course is much the same each year with the event annually alternating as a point-to-point race from Enseñada in the north, south to La Paz, or a loop race starting and finishing in Enseñada. As a point-to-point race the course length varies but is often over 1,000 miles; as a loop race the course length averages 830 miles. According to Wikipedia, ‘each year there are reports of spectators sabotaging or booby-trapping the course by digging holes, blocking river flow, or burying and hiding obstacles. Many of the booby traps are not created to intentionally injure the contestants but are created by the local spectators as jumps or obstacles for spectator entertainment. The haphazardly-designed jumps, created by the spectators, are very dangerous as the contestants may inadvertently enter the booby-trap at unsafe speeds, resulting in damage to the vehicles or injuries to competitors or spectators.’ Esperando, in the way of boys, is all hot to go watch the race this year as it passes on down to La Paz. I told him to go find another boy to watch it with, I wasn’t interested.

The Baja 500 is essentially the same race held in the springtime, but the course is shorter and loops back to Enseñada. The Loreto 400 is a stock car race dating back to the early 80’s. It goes from Loreto at the Sea of Cortes across the La Giganta mountain range over to the Pacific Ocean, then back up the coast over the mountain range and returns into Loreto. This route is also called the missions route since it follows the historical trails that connected the missions of the Jesuits, Franciscans and Dominicans. The Loreto 400 is consider to be one of the bigger races in Southern Baja.

Esperando and I spent our last night of vacation poolside with me quaffing margaritas and Esperando cold Tecates. As the evening lengthened the temperature became more pleasant and our intentions to go out to dinner evaporated. We ate a great pizza by the pool instead; the pool bar/kitchen has a brick pizza oven, and they make a mean pizza. By the time we headed up to our room, Esperando and I had outlasted the two 8-year old terrorists and almost everyone else, except for a pair of lovers, he a tall blonde gringo with a pronounced lisp and she a very pregnant Mexico girl, who remained entwined in the pool for really at least 2 hours clasped together, never moving. I wondered how you can remain that long in the pool without turning into a prune or needing to go to the bathroom. How romantic am I?

August 17, 2009

Todos Santos and La Paz

After 3 hot days in Cabo Pulmo we were ready to move on to Todos Santos where we had booked a room at Casa Bentley, a meandering stout-walled stone building set in a ‘tropical jungle’ that the owner, Bob Bentley, has carved out of old mango and avocado orchard. Bob has lived in Todos Santos since 1984, is a geologist by trade and became our instant friend and guide. He sent us to all the great restaurants in town and had lots of entertaining tales to tell. We had a delightful large cool room with private terrace, but we spent most of the hot afternoons lounging around his beautiful shaded gem of a swimming pool with his five dogs, all answering to the name of Heidi. His charming hotel manager, Beatrice, keeps everything humming along.

Todos Santos is all about the people, art galleries, places to eat and shops. We met a lot of really nice people; we were even invited to a cocktail party at a private home which was fantastic because we got to see the hostess’ lovely home and meet even more really cool Todos Santos residents. I don’t think I’ve ever been to a friendlier place, or had a more convivial time in just 3 short days.

Our first day, of course, had to check out the notorious Hotel California of Eagles fame, even though the Eagles never were really in Todos Santos. We had great margaritas there in the bar that evening, then wandered into the hotel lobby which looked like a gallery, and started talking to hotel manager Debbie Stewart whose husband (now deceased) was instrumental in putting Hotel California on the map—he created a really great hotel. According to Bob Bentley, local legend has it that on the night he died a major hurricane was about to make landfall there, and his spirit went out to sea and turned the hurricane away from Todos Santos.

Todos Santos has an old historic center but homes are scattered and sprawled up and down over hills, some homes have views of the ocean, some have none, most have really great gardens. Lots of funky, artistic and unique houses represent the efforts of the expatriate community. It kind of reminded us of a smaller Taos, New Mexico, on the Pacific Ocean, except it was hot and humid in a way Taos would never be. While we were there we encountered lots of Italian tourists, as well as several wonderful Italian restaurants: Tre Galline, a more upscale trendy and delicious place; and il Giardino Pizzeria Trattoria, an alfresco wood-fired pizza parlor also serving up pasta dishes. We had lunch at D’Alicias, a self-described Baja New Mexico restaurant featuring familiar-to-us New Mexico style enchiladas, something you will probably not encounter anywhere else in Baja California. This year many of the art galleries and restaurants have already shut down for the season due to the slow rate of tourism, so even in 3 days we still didn’t get to see it all. Before we got there several people told us that 4 hours of Todos Santos was sufficient to see and know the whole thing—obviously they REALLY missed the whole thing.

We bid a sad farewell to all our new found friends and drove to La Paz to see if our red enamel and stainless steel GE stove had been repaired and could come along with us to Santa Rosalia. Alas, it was still being worked on and they will call us when it is ready. I will not hold my breath.

August 12, 2009

Loreto to Cabo Pulmo

Our vacation is not proceeding smoothly, but rather in fits and starts. When we left Loreto 3 days ago I got the grunge from something I ate at lunch, I thought. In retrospect I believe that one of our houseguests who thought she had bad food had a 24-hour stomach bug and passed it on to me. In any event we stopped in Loreto for lunch at La Mision, a new luxury hotel there and were offered a terrific lunch buffet. I ate far more than I had intended to including lasagna; enchilada suiza; little strips of fajita meat; these delicious ground meat gorditas in a deep fried pastry which you topped with salsa, fresh chopped onions and cilantro; ceviche; and a wide selection of desserts including fruit, flan, buñuelos, various pastries and cakes. After stuffing ourselves we continued our journey, 4 hours south to La Paz.

I was so full from lunch, I began to think I was going to throw up before we would ever get to our destination. I just chalked it up to something bad in the lunch and way too many solid days of driving. By the time we got to our accommodation for the evening, Casa Tuscany, all I wanted to do was crawl into bed and go to sleep. Our hosts, a delightful couple, Patricia and Ken Bonner (respectively from Australia and New Zealand) were quite chatty and I hoped I wouldn’t pitch it all in front of them before they showed us to our room 30 minutes later. I had no desire to go to our favorite restaurant, Las Virgenes. Fortunately our hosts had provided a very decent bottle of wine with the room and Esperando wasn’t hungry either. He sipped some wine and read while I cratered. In the morning I still hadn’t recovered, I felt better but now had diarrhea. Fortunately I recovered after a dose of Lomotil.

We ran a bunch of errands in La Paz, including retrieving a dresser drawer that had been repaired from shipping damage; trying to get a scuba tank filled (but without enough time); buying a few groceries at Walmart; and checking to see if a red enamel/stainless steel GE stove was still available at El Ferry (an appliance store) for Casa Abeja. I had seen the stove 5 months previously. At the time it was drastically marked down, I assumed because of its color. Esperando was sure it would be there, I was sure it wouldn’t and my jaw dropped to the floor to still find it, although without any price on it. Turns out someone had bought it, but returned it since one of the burners didn’t work. We told them we would be returning in a week and would buy it if they could get it fixed by then. This is Mexico, we’ll see if anything happens.

After that, we got back on the highway for Cabo Pulmo, which turned out to be 2 ½ hours distant. I had set up a 3-day stay for us at the delightful El Encanto de Cabo Pulmo, a private home comprised of a small main house, separate loft with balcony (where we stayed), and small casita. The house was designed by artist Diane Varney and every detail is beautifully finished and furnished Mexican style. She has planted an interesting garden of desert plants and many native trees which support the abundant bird life of several species of doves, cardinals, orioles, some small olive colored flittery birds and a desert lark. Cabo Pulmo itself is a national marine park, Parque Marino Nacional Cabo Pulmo, noted for great diving. It has the only coral reef system in the Sea of Cortez. Interestingly most of the tourists we’ve encountered here are Italians.

After lunch yesterday, Esperando caught ‘the grunge’ and fell ill. This morning he was feeling not 100%, but in the way of men went off on his dive anyway. Turns out the first two dives were good, but Esperando was too ill to make the last one.

Cabo Pulmo is an unusual place. We think the population must be about 200 with quite a few Mexican families. It has very little in the way of a grocery store, 4 restaurants, 5 dive shops, a host of beautiful gringo homes running on solar cells and well water. Although quite isolated it still manages to generate a cacophony of noise Mexican-style—generators humming, roosters crowing, peacocks mewing, birds chirping, children screaming, metal pans clanging, trucks rattling by, car alarms screeching, cars honking, cars revving by some with radios blaring, dogs barking, horses neighing, hammers tapping, electric saws roaring, and workmen constructing new homes hollering at one another—because of its small size every noise takes on a life of its own and rivets attention during its broadcast.

We have been eating at El Caballero. The meals are simple but tasty and the young waiter makes a truly great Margarita. Tonite we took the steak we had planned to bbq, but lacking the means for doing so they prepared it for us. Medium rare turned out to be pretty much well done, but still it was tasty.

The daytime temperature has been about 95F (although we think it topped 100F today) and since the generator is down we have no air conditioning. Other than living in the warm waters of the Sea of Cortez, taking a shower every couple of hours is the only way to cool down for a few minutes. Fortunately there is a fairly steady breeze after about 10 am (I say that as I sit here dripping prespiration in the shade). Our bedroom has a ceiling fan directly over the bed—and mosquito netting. I have already sacrificed a good portion of my ankles and legs for mosquito nourishment—they must be Aztec mosquitoes as they are quite a bloodthirsty lot. At night all the stars in the heavens and the Milky Way light up the night sky and are visible from our fine balcony location. We started out saying this place is way too remote, we could visit here, but we could never live here, but now we have added Diane Varney’s lovely home to the list of places we would buy to retire to—but just for 4 months every year—and not in hot August.

August 8, 2009

Flying down the highway

Leaving Denver we passed through the Eisenhower Tunnel, it is the highest vehicular tunnel in the U.S. and 1.6 miles long. Today we arrived in Santa Rosalia after four day’s journey from Denver. We had some long days of driving and are both pretty tired, but we have to organize ourselves to pack up for our vacation starting tomorrow—one night in La Paz, three in Cabo Pulmo (best diving in Mexico they say); and three nights in Todos Santos where we hope to latch up with Ray of Ray’s Hacienda de la Cubana in Mulege (who is spending his summer in there).

Our trip through the U.S. landed us in St. George, Utah, our first night at a Holiday Inn after 9 hours of driving; second night with Junior Birdman at his house in San Diego; last night in the amazing Catavina that oasis out in the middle of the Cirios Biosphere. In St. George we had an amazing full moon at sunrise (we were already on the road by then.) We drove through Las Vegas and were vastly entertained by amusing billboards (simple minds, simple pleasures.) In San Diego we bought a lemon tree, oregano, rosemary and thyme plants. We also brought some olives trees along that I ordered online in Denver. Fortunately they all made it through agricultural inspection in Guerrero Negro, we were concerned we might have to surrender them. All they wanted to know was if we had fruit, which Esperando pretended did not mean the unripe lemons growing on our little tree. We brought two kayaks down; we didn’t realize at the time how easy that would make crossing the various military checkpoints where we were flagged through as tourists, something Mexico is hungry for right now.

The cats seem relatively glad to see me so far. Winnie has been following me around, Frida creeps by hoping I won’t notice her yet. She is REALLY fat. I opened the dresser drawer to pet Carmen who still hides there by day. She moved to another drawer and I found her when I was putting away laundry.

Casa Abeja is looking good. We have a mission for our vacation. We will have to look for a new sink for the bathroom as one of them had a tool dropped in it and broke. I still have dinner to get through, I am so tired all I want to do is go to sleep now at 3:30 pm. We are leaving the mess of boxes full of stuff we hauled down here in the living room for a week while we go away.

August 4, 2009

How to improve your dog

Last night was the Big Doggie Massage night (my sister-in-law tells me I might be turning into a dog whisperer!) My neighbor recommended Inner Puppy Canine Massage to me for Sweet Pickle the other night at the wine party. She and her sister took their dogs to a class given by Mary Brickner, a Certified Canine Massage Practitioner, where they learned how to massage their dogs using massage and acupressure techniques. I started thinking that might help his hip dysplasia. When I called Mary the other day to come to my home for a consultation, she arranged her plans to fit with my tight schedule for heading back down to Baja.

I was so tired yesterday, after monitoring my Mother the previous night after her fall and now soused on pain medication that I barely got any sleep. Yesterday morning I called the orthpod suggested by the hospital emergency room for followup. When they couldn't see her until two days later, I was able to get an appointment with my great shoulder guy, Dr. Raj Bazaz. Fortunately the bone break was straightforward and all she needs is casting (although he did realign her wrist a bit manually which was incredibly painful and accomplished in about 15 seconds). They will have to finally cast her in Taos as she needs to wait a week for the swelling to go down. Dr. Bazaz put a beautiful padded splint applied with his great banter and charm. She stopped complaining about pain almost immediately. I brought Mother home then went off to do my mammagram revisited; turns out everything thing was fine with my breasts. While we were doing the doctor, Hermana drove up from Taos so she would be ready to gather up Mom and all her new clothes for a road trip. Yesterday the two of us split helping her walk (her cane hand is casted now), take pills, change clothes and get around--and of course arguing with her the whole time as the pain medicine makes her forgetful and incredibly loopy. It was so nice that there were two of us, it was so much easier. But by the time evening rolled around I didn’t see how I keep awake until my 7:30 appointment with Mary which was to last for 60-90 minutes.

When Mary arrived she brought me a passle of literature on dog food, a diagram of dog acupunture points, and other cool stuff which we went over for about 20 minutes. She had a fairly detailed questionnaire to ask about Sweet Pickle as well. Then she brought out the treats which Dash liked; and the little bag of massage oils, all of which Sweet Pickle pointedly rejected in about 2 seconds flat per fragrance. He reacted to them just as he had to Mike’s toy train one Christmas (we had to put it up and haven’t used it since.) So we didn’t do massage oil, but she spent about 40 minutes massaging him, showed Hermana and me the pressure points on the dog, how to massage using two fingers and what kind of hand movements to use. Every time she would hit a release point he would lick his lips. He seemed an unwillingly victim trying to escape at times, although at other times his eyes would express contentment with the procedure. The time really sped by and I forgot how tired I was. She was of the opinion that Sweet Pickle’s bad hips can be controlled with a better diet, massage and exercise. I hope this is true as it would be a good thing. As she left, she asked me to let her know if I noticed any different behavior from him the following day.

Sure enough the change in Sweet Pickle was almost immediate, when I went upstairs for my nightly bath he fell asleep beside the bathtub instead of guarding me like he normally does. (I think he thinks I’m going to drown in there). When I got out of the tub instead of racing down the hall in his usual style he sat up and looked at me, then rolled back over on the floor and went back to sleep. He slept much better during the night and was quite a bit calmer this morning than he usually is; Hermana thought so too.

Now I am washing clothing and floors. Tonight I drop off the modem and TV box, pick up Esperando at the airport, make a pit stop at Home Depot on the way home, then we take off for Baja in the morning just like the Beverly Hillbillies. Sweet Pickle will be playing the role of Jed Clampett played by Buddie Ebsen. (I think the resemblance is striking!)

August 2, 2009


My 101 year old Mother fell in my house at 5 am this morning and broke her wrist. I was still in bed upstairs when I heard this small thump, and the dog got up and looked at me like, ‘well, aren’t you going to do anything?’ So I got up to see what went thump and there she was sitting on the floor in the hall by the bathroom. It was not an auspicious beginning to the day. I could not lift her up, nor could she get herself up. ‘I think I’ve broken my arm’ she said. Following Hermana’s advice before she left for vacation on what to do if Mother fell, I called 911. I did not realize that they would keep me on the phone talking for what seemed like an eternity. When it sunk in they might show up while I was still running around in my nightgown, I raced upstairs to change, then 911 transferred me over to the paramedics as I was still getting dressed. I raced back downstairs, got my Mother’s hearing aids and dentures into her so she would look presentable, threw the dog outside, then did as the emergency crew asked and unlocked the front door and turned the front porch light on.

In no time five burly young firemen in full gear were walking into the house, grilling my Mother about her condition and seeking medical information such as current medications and drug allergies which was all esconced in her wallet— which had magically disappeared from her purse or any other obvious location. Then the paramedics showed up, she was put on a gurney and hauled away while I was still looking for the missing wallet. I asked one of the firemen if they would admit her to the hospital without her Medicare card and he said no problem, don’t worry, take your time, she isn’t going anywhere. That was a whole new thought to me, so I emailed Hermana as to what had just happened, and she responded promptly that they were heading home and she would call at noon. I ate a piece of bread and a peach, took a quick shower, finally found her wallet buried in an empty drawer under some tissue paper, grabbed up all of her drugs, and shot off to the hospital. By the time I got there, I estimate 30 minutes later, she had been x-Rayed and was propped up in a bed waiting for the doctor and wondering where I was. My cell phone rang, it was my neighbor—my other neighbor called her to report the paramedics at our house and they were all concerned about us. (Apparently they let you talk on your cell phone in the hospital now, that is a change from the last time I was there.)

They gave my Mother some pain medication, after about an hour splinted her arm and soon we were on our way back home. The dog followed her into the bedroom and went over to tenderly touch her with his nose. I called my College Friend who had left a message for me about getting together this weekend. She came over to bring me some books and sat with my Mother so I could run off and get her pain medication prescription filled. Tomorrow my neighbor is coming to stay while I do the re-imaging thing on my boobs. My other neighbor called this evening and said she and her entire family had prayed for me at mass this morning since they didn’t know who in the household had been carted away in the ambulance. Actually as I look at it Someone HAS been holding His hand over my head all day long. It could have been so much worse and we have had help all day long as we needed it.