La Pita at the Gate

HERE is a ‘living in Mexico’ advantage – Usually once a week a pretty woman comes by our casa with a basket and or pan of tasty pan dulce; not the typical Mexican pastry, more of the European bakery varieties. We are talking rich – no calorie-counting, and scrumptious pastry.

Today we have brownies and turnovers.

Over the last few years La Pita formerly operated a restaurant in a couple of locations here in her, and our, neighborhood. While her restaurants were successful, each time she closed them deciding it was just too much work. She is a homeschooler; a busy mother. And she found an alternative source of income – selling dessert door to door.

La Pita Takes a Break Enjoying a Cool Drink

Actually her husband makes the delicacies, La Pita merely sold them at her restaurants and now on foot. She is the marketing arm. La Pita always arrives here with a smile and a hug; usually she will come in and sit down for a chat with Anita – girl talk.

GIRL TALK

I being much more of a sweet tooth person, am the chief benefactor of her visits – often for a couple of days enjoying rich chocolate brownies or Napoleon otherwise called mille-feuille, which is a flaky layered pastry with custard slathered between layers – YUM!

She also occasionally brings large apple turnovers with a delicious crispy flaky crust filled with an apple compote.

You can probably tell I like!

North of the border ‘ers may have a Schwan’s truck cruising around their hoods – but we seriously doubt lovely La Pita types are wandering about those NOB neighborhoods.

Yet another reason to be happy here South of the Border. Stay Tuned!

Blowin in the Wind

The wall has been completed. The jury is still out on the effects it may have on our jet stream prevailing winds. In the last few days we have had some fairly high wind speeds coming from the direction of over-the-wall. There is still wind here.

Anita very cleverly spoke with the wall builders requesting blue glass shards along our stretch of environmental interruptus. We are happy with the results of her petition. A bonus – the oddly angled shards of blue glass capture street light at night producing a sparkling blue glow that appears almost as if it is electrically lighted. Perhaps this is a rational to make it all easier to accept?

All still physically the divider is intimidating and unwelcoming. Possibly in time resurgent plant life and other tricks may eventually soften that pain.

We should have disclosed perhaps that we have never been fans of walls. Be that as that bias may be, Mexico has many and varied walls. One learns to adapt.

Living a few blocks from the majesty and powerful Pacific Ocean is a bonus in life.

– we have little to complain about.

So there will be no more discussion about the Great Wall.

Stay Tuned!

Setting Me Straight

Where you are standing or sitting is where you are – we can all agree on that. What direction or your heading is an entirely different story – that is not so easy to know or to necessarily agree upon.

A friend wrote this to me yesterday referring to my recent blog entry wherein I described the great wall in our driveway running along our south property line, “…hate to be a stickler about this but the wall is on the EAST side of your house, not the south. The beach is on the south and the sun sets in the west, as you have no doubt noticed from your balcony.”

Of course my friend is wrong about this correction. The interesting thing is this person has been living here in Puerto full time for ten years or so; and knows the area generally about as well as anyone – even better.

It is easier to get turned around than one might think. Let us try and sort this out. First there is true north and compass or magnetic north and magnetic declination, sometimes called magnetic variation to take into account. To avoid the complications of compass readings let us just use True North and not use any magnetic compass directions, to be on the same page sort of speak.

Google Earth and most maps depict north as the top-of-the-page thus the bottom is south; the far right is east and the far left is west. Using that standard below is a Google Earth photo of my house ostensibly from 650 feet above, although Google uses the word satellite, most of the high-resolution imagery of cities is aerial photography taken from aircraft flying at 800 feet (240 m) to 1,500 feet (460 m); however, most of the other imagery is from satellites. The photo I use here was taken August 7th, 2013.

The most current Google satellites are orbiting at 311-mile (500-km) high. From that altitude, the satellites are able to image objects less than 32 inches (80 cm) in diameter – amazing! In this photo I can clearly see our little bodega in the backyard – also amazing!

Pulling the view back a bit.

Clearly, to me, you can see the two vacant lots east of the two white rectangles and south of where our casa is located.

So how did my friend get turned around? Easy actually. Most people know that the sun “rises in the east and sets in the west”. However, most people don’t realize that is a generalization. Actually, the sun only rises due east and sets due west on 2 days of the year – the spring and fall equinoxes! On other days, the sun rises either north or south of “due east” and sets north or south of “due west.”

Each day the rising and setting points change slightly. At the summer solstice, the sun rises as far to the northeast as it ever does, and sets as far to the northwest. Every day after that, the sun rises a tiny bit further south.

At the fall equinox, the sun rises due east and sets due west. It continues on its journey southward until, at the winter solstice, the sun rises are far to the south as it ever does, and sets as far to the southwest.

Puerto is only about 50 kilometers from the most southerly point of Mexico. Jump in the ocean heading south from Puerto and the next landfall is Antarctica.

In my last Blog entry I closed mentioning “Tune in next time to view an unusual visitor to the Calypso kitchen.”

The other morning Anita came charging out of the kitchen area like a rodeo bull being released at the gate. I noted fear across her lovely face. This is more of a concern these days as small bugs, spiders including scorpions, geckos and even iguanas in our yard and even in the house are customary to her. In other words she does not rattle easily.

I am not sure where she was going as she streaked through the living room area heading towards the door saying something about, “…In the kitchen….” I had to investigate.

There right next to the sink, where Anita is often found was a pretty large toad – a two fisted sized amphibian. I grabbed a broom trying to gently direct it out of our house. It was not coHOPerating at all. So I went into a sweeping action that eventually rolled it into our front garden outside – where I was able to capture a photo.

This hombre was better suited in the garden.

Most of you do not live amongst scorpions, geckos, possums, crabs, toads and small crocodile sized iguanas – and even small crocodiles. Our friend Charlie related a story the other day about returning home from the States to find a small crock in his pool!

What can be said – living at the beach has its Wild Kingdom attributes and I would not have it any other way.  Stay Tuned!

Miles and Miles and Miles

Last week our new Italika scooter passed 1000 miles on the odometer. Less than three months old and rolling up the kilometers faster than our Xico scooter which is around 8000 kilometers traveled (about 5000 miles) since 2008 – going on 8 years. We have always traveled around more here at the beach than in the tri-cities (Xalapa, Coatepec, Xico).

Our Italika remains un-named.

We offer no resistance to accusations of the perils of riding a two-wheeler on Mexican streets. It is not for the faint of heart or those not possessing motorcycle operation safety skills as a major theme. We mostly wear our helmets, always remain aware of our road surroundings and step down carefully etc.

Full disclosure; we had two ‘incidents’ on our Zenetti scooter in Xico – both scooter side-ways events – at nearly stopped speed – but all still our Zenetti scooter sports the badges of meeting pavement beyond the rubber side. We believe our scooter skills are better honed and our Italika remains pristine – keeping the rubber side down.

Our relationship with the local Italika service center remains excellent. This is totally opposite concerning our dissatisfaction with the dealerships in Coatepec and Xalapa. So give Puerto an add for excellent service.

The numbers are less than 20 cents a mile amortized since we bought Cruise Azul. Which coincidentally is the exact figure for our 2008 Jetta. However the maintenance and fuel costs are higher with the Jetta. We also have enjoyed the convenience of easy parking and excellent maneuverability with the scooters.

We met a hombre at our friends Charlie and Yoli’s yesterday that asked about the viability of the scooter, “…ONCE WE GOT ON THE HI WAY YOUR SCOOTER TOOK OFF LIKE A SHOT.  WHAT MAKE IS IT AND HOW MANY CC’S?   I’VE BEEN LOOKING AT LOCAL MOTORCYCLES AND FIGURED I NEED A 250 AT LEAST FOR TRIP TO PUERTO AND BACK.” (All caps our new friend’s METHOD – not mine).

I suggested we get together and talk for more details on the pluses and minuses – of course they are all in here as well.

As mentioned we spent the day out about 12 miles to the east at Charlie and Yoli’s. We had not been together for a year – which is crazy because we REALLY LIKE the two of them, and invariably they have interesting friends to meet and enjoy as well.

Charlie who is a young octogenarian is a total southern gentlemen. He hails from Alabama and reminds me of President Jimmy Carter. He has that gentle southern drawl. Soft spoken and a terrific host with an equally terrific location set back from the ocean with a long stretch of vacant beach as his southern exposure.

Sunset at Charlie’s Yesterday

We met some new friends, had a tasty chili rellenos lunch and got our feet wet in the pool. A good time was had by all.

Tune in next time to view an unusual visitor to the Calypso kitchen. Stay Tuned!

Going Out on a Limb

I know there will be someone out there that has a logical answer for this. There is that word logical. Let us start with a couple visuals.

If you have been reading along you know there is a GREAT wall rising between our neighbor’s vacant lot(s) and our south property line. You also know this was spawned by crimes in the neighborhood.

The great wall around two lots next-door is nearing completion. Like smashing your thumb with a hammer – this pain too will subside.

The nuts and bolts of construction always comes with noise, dust and dirt, strangers on the street and did I mention the mess? Did I mention the NOISE!

But without delving into those complaints let’s talk about construction practices and the tools of the trade. Let me set the stage here. This crew is part of a large construction company. The contractor/owner has a terrific reputation. He builds high-end properties here in the Puerto area.

He has things like a gas cement mixer (not used on this job thus far – must be busy somewhere else). He has multiple jobs going at all times. He moves his crews and equipment around in a timely and efficient manner as far as I can tell. Did I just write ‘efficient’? Read on.

Referring you to the above photos, did you notice the freshly cut tree limbs wedged in a manner to apply pressure on the board pressed against the blocks? Looking closely we see many nails driven into the freshly laid blocks. Many man hours have been put in to assemble these frameworks to build out the beams and posts. They used machetes to cut the limbs first off – then hours devoted to applying box frames. This is a common antiquated practice here in Mexico. In the U.S. clamps and reusable framework make quick work of preparing cavities to accept cement used to produce posts and beams.

While there is a certain charm to some of the Mexican building practices – this one always maddens me in its inefficiencies. I know we could argue the fact that this labor intensive part of the construction process provides jobs for many a Mexican Albañil (construction laborer).

As I sit here next-door cement is being poured in the boxed frames. The cement has way too much water in it (excess water weakens cement). The liquid splashes, dotting my car and scooter. We could park those out on the street, however the last time that was done the water delivery people crashed into my car – so we hesitate to park in the street anymore. It will all be over soon. And we will remain confused and moving on…. STAY TUNED!

Decorating 101
I Am Not Afraid

The other day I asked my sister who lives in Washington State to send some photos of her house etc. She has been there for 13 years or so – and yet – I know so little about where she is. This did not seem right.

In a couple of days I received a few photos – taken in 2009 – nice photos. I must admit that I laughed at the age of those photos – here thinking digital cameras, instant processing (faster than a speeding Polaroid) etc. and yet 5-6 year old photos to keep me up-to-date. No disrespect to my sister who I love dearly – but now a visit is eminent.

On that note – here is a very recent photo of my office/work-space. Anita more less dared me to post such a mess (she above all should know I am not to be dared!).

I think anyone can see this is a serviceable space – music, computers, photo gear, books and Kindle and notebook nearby – it works or rather I work there comfortably.

Lately we have been adding some touches to our beach casita.

A home of your own that works is deeply restorative and can even instill energy and inspire. It is not just a physical space to put our stuff or a shelter to protect them and us from the elements. It can be a place so steeped in who we are, the beauty of that, that it has the capacity to transform us – which in turn creates a home of even deeper meaning and purpose.

When does a house become a home as they say, how do we create this?  How do we design from within our soul?

There is no specific formula, no rule book. In fact, the path (by definition) is going to be different for each of us.

So our surroundings can have a profound effect on our minds, bodies, and spirits. We recently added a piece of folk art that for me sort of transformed our living space, even though it in and of itself is a relatively minor addition. It was as if you just added a key piece to a jigsaw puzzle – suddenly it is all making sense!

Perhaps not by coincidence this is an angel – a rough wood carving picked up on El Adoquin here in Puerto.

El Adoquin, which means “the cobble.” Don’t even ask for Perez Gasga street (the official name), as no one will know it. Right in the middle of town where the large statue of Benito Juarez stands tall is the entry point to El Adoquin.  The roadway is open to cars during the day, it becomes a pedestrian-only street at night and a mecca for nightlife that goes into the wee hours. For this reason, you might chose to book a hotel some blocks away if you want peace and quiet.

My amigo Steve Cotton arriving in town, never asked; ending up at a hotel on the edge of The Adoquin. We suspect he did not have a restful sleep there?

On the Adoquin many, many shops are fronted by rows and rows of tables set-up each night to tempt you with affordable hand-made jewelry, pottery, masks, t-shirts to Mexican guayabers, hammocks, and toys. There are mescal shops, ice cream shops and a variety of restaurants and watering holes. I am here to tell you the place is addictive and you will not go home without buying something – even when you live here.

We have been collecting Mexican masks. They add color to our gray walls in the casa and are terrific examples of Mexican folk-art. There are a few vendors that sell the masks along the Adoquin – we have connected with one. He manages to sell us yet another mask nearly each time we stop to say hello – he always has a special deal for us ;-) .

The other night we came home with yet another carved mask or wall hanging – this time we found a rather plain angel – but she spoke to us – OK not in the touchy feel y  way, more in a decorating way.

Let us begin by understanding and accepting the idea of creating a home for ourselves, as part of our personal space. This while we have been taught or encouraged to see our homes as showpieces – to think that this table or that mask “says” something about me. We need to be able to say, “This piece touches me, moves me, inspires
me.”

Our New Angel

Decorating for show can surely provide a sense of gratification. But it can be a fleeting, superficial gratification. One that needs to be continually reinforced with newer, bigger, “better” items. Are you ready to tear out your granite kitchen counters and replace them?  Because they are out of style I have been reading. Ouch!

Seeing your home as a source of inspiration means filling it with things that you want to keep for, well maybe even a lifetime. And you do not necessarily need a lot of money to acquire these pieces. In fact, limited resources often inspire the most beautiful, clever and creative interior design: every item is chosen with care and from the heart. We have bought nothing because it fits a certain color scheme or adding something that is bordering kitsch.

We can play with color and textures, sizes and shapes; we can be artists and use our homes as our canvas; especially as owners rather than renters. We will save the pluses and minuses of home ownership versus renting for another day. Stay Tuned!

We Have WALLS – Big ones

The recent attempted and subsequent successful robbery in conjunction with the killing of several wild and one domestic animal shook the neighborhood up (heretofore that had been exclusively performed by the San Andreas Fault). There was a reliable rumor that another member of our Hood had an attempted burglary Wednesday night.  Everyone remains on guard.

Our neighbor (see previous entry) went into immediate action; some of which causes us some genuine concern and unhappiness. He repaired some doors and had lock work done etc. OK so far.

But then he has decided to build a 9 foot prison wall around his vacant lot next-door to us. This is the lot in which the southern breeze cruises over property lines (it recognizes none) and arrives welcome at our casa. Now that wonderful bit of ocean air must scale the wall to get over here to our place – grrrrr.

We tried to reason with the neighbor suggesting that adding 13 blocks (about 2 meters) to the height of the wall will not deter real thieves any more than metal bars or menacing dogs (willing to ingest poison at the drop of a laced sausage) .

“But there will be sharp glass shards atop the wall.” He offered up.

“Any enterprising thief will merely toss a piece of rug (think welcome mat) over the glass and proceed atop the wall and over.” We replied. “They have grappling hooks and rope and well you know all the tools to make burglary easy.” We added.

It was pretty obvious we were at an impasse on this, especially considering a crew of four to six had already put in a day’s work. And most of the previous day trucks unloading what seemed like massive amounts of sand, gravel and truck-after-truck of block – thousands of them! – The wall is already on its way up – grrrr.

We like our neighbor and refuse to let this wall come between us – well in a spiritual, good-neighbor sense. He thinks the wind will not be deterred much. That remains to be felt. All the wonderful greenery contiguous to him and us was gone – but it will grow back – that admittedly happens fast around here.

But that wall is BUTT UGLY and we will have to adjust.  Did I mention we REALLY like our neighbor?

Pictures tell the story.

Recall we had this low block and mesh screen divider between our properties.

Original block and fence divider runs between our properties – south side.

First two meter section – the blocks begin!

Walls going up – Later cement posts will be poured.

Glass shards installed along the top of the wall.

Section of wall that fronts the roadway – ugh!

OK it is a work in progress (so hard to call it that). In time there will be plant life obscuring some of the stark block.

Learning to live amongst our fellow man in peace and harmony separates us from the wild kingdom – does it not? Stay Tuned!

Paradise Lost

 

The night before last we had a burglary across the street and another next-door. In both instances the property owner was the same. His own property had an attempt made upon it and across the street his two duplexes were entered while the renters were sleeping.

We spoke with one of the victims while our neighbor was giving us the low down.

Laptops and cash were taken on the run as not this guy but someone else in the two bedroom luxury apartment woke up while the burglary was in progress.

Our neighbor further reported Pirata, our neighborhood dog (he is actually the dog’s owner), was poisoned prior to the invasion. Apparently the robbers came an hour or so earlier, poisoned the dog; then waited until the ill effects had taken hold before returning.

Of course the news of our favorite noisy hound startled us and caused our hearts to drop. The neighbor immediately chimed in that Pirata was going to be OK as he noticed her condition during the initial commotion and immediately took her to the vet. Lumps out of our throats, we asked for robbery details.

Upon hearing his downstairs door rattling, this past his locked gate and no dog barking he got up and out with a flashlight. The potential intruders ran off. Thinking it was all over he went back to bed.

About a half hour later one of the renters was at his gate yelling for him, letting him know there had been a home invasion in their rental.

I asked how the thieves entered the property. The renters had not locked their door before going to bed. A MAJOR no-no. We were surprised that foreigners in a strange land would leave their door unlocked – very surprised. And I am sure this fellow felt stupid. Not sure if they were Canadian or U.S. Americans.

The landlord assured us that he always alerted renters to lock their doors. Sadly these folks did not heed the advice.

In our own situation we are sometimes lax about locked doors – however we always lock the downstairs up before retiring. We have deadbolts on a couple of main entry points. These usually are only set locked when we leave for the summer – of course now we will start engaging the double dead bolts at night and when we leave.

There were no signs of anyone being on our property. I had tools out for my continuing walking blocks project as well as our expensive Jamis bicycles and some gardening tools – also the bodega was unlocked – obviously I did not have things battened down securely – but again no sign of anything missing or of having been disturbed.

Perhaps if the neighbors hadn’t caught the action and caused the thieves to flee, we might have been next? If you are planning to rob go to the biggest and nicest homes first (that will always get us low on the hit list). For whatever reason we have avoided having any of our houses robbed in the ten years we have been in Mexico.

Last night we were locked down. Since EVERYONE in the neighborhood has been robbed save us, it is time to step up security.  Paradise has not actually been lost, but the sunny pleasantry of it all has been a bit tarnished – hide the silver!

#### Adding this after posting two hours ago. The neighbor found his cat dead yesterday and reported that to us and he also discovered a dead possum in the field next to us. An hour ago 3 dead possums appeared in our yard – all within feet of one another. Apparently the crooks have managed to kill a good deal of the local wild life and a pet in the Hood. These are some heartless and reckless  people.

Stay Tuned!

A Shady Deal

Have you run into this – you buy a house that has some expensive accouterments – the cost of which impresses you, the actual item not. For going on five years we have had just such an item(s) in our Puerto Beach casa (Casa Las Brisas del Mar). The wall lamp shade in question is shown in the photo below – actually four of them.

Do you like these wall lamp shades?

You begin to question your taste after seeing the price tag and commencing to be bewildered that that thing could cost that! This is a metal framed shade with a leather/bark like covering. What I like to call a dust catcher. And not pleasing to look at, at that. Upon arrival we started shopping for something else only to see these shade covers at several of the nicer stores for a high price – oops better leave them and modify our taste (or lack thereof).

A couple of weeks ago Puerto’s fanciest lighting store had a 20 percent off sale – twice in as many months.

Puerto’s High-End Lighting Store’s Onyx and Marble Showroom

The Calypso Couple seized the moments and bought a few  table lamps.

Table Lamp by my workstation.

Another Table Lamp

as well as replaced the four offending high-end wall shades.

One of four new wall sconces.

Another of our new shades.

And another…

And another….

All these fixtures had a common thread – onyx – kind of a throw-back to the sixties that multi-colored light. SOOTHING. The best part is, for we beach dwellers, the lamps will resist the salt air; probably lasting longer than just about anything with which you can wrap a bulb.

When Steve Cotton was here last month, during the ten cent tour of our little beach casa, he keyed on the wall shades like a kid in a candy store. “Where did you get that shade?”

Apparently he has a need for something like this in his new luxury casa over in Barra de Navidad.

We also replaced a fixture in our downstairs bathroom (yes, we have two); again with a lovely onyx shade. Very intimate lighting, which is probably not required in our small bathroom (if only there was a tub for two – then….).

Downstairs Bathroom Light Sconce Upgrade

Bathroom Shade Closer-up

So there you have our latest upgrade-the-beach-house report. Next a new kitchen cabinet – Stay Tuned!

REASONING

Logic would dictate…. Here in Mexico using logic to make something clear or alter a situation’s outcome is likely to be less successful than in the U.S. or Canada.

The Mexicans seem to have a way of ending a questioning situation by ending the communication – it goes no further – What you get at that point is a stare off into space – logical conclusion NOT HAPPENING. In other words end-of-conversation.

Take this recent experience with the local powers-that-be running the Hood’s water company. First you should know one’s water bill receipt is oh so much more than the tab for receiving an unpalatable liquid best known around these parts as aqua.

In any number of situations involving authorities of some sort  (visa issuance, driver’s license and car registration efforts etc.),  the water bill is used as an identifying document – one that says you live here in Mexico at the address shown on your water bill – it of course must be in your name.  The water bill is the defacto I.D. document even over and above your passport, visa or driver’s license.

Obtaining a water bill in your name is a step and achievement towards being an expat residing in Mexico.

Anita and I have been using water bills as successful I.D. documents for going on ten years. But back to the wrinkle of the other day.

We pay our water bill here in Puerto annually in January. We are billed a flat rate that is due and payable each month – however, to avoid having to go in 12 times a year we simply pay ahead for the entire year. This year there was a special assessment added to build a new office – 100$ Mexican pesos or about $7.50 usd – no problemo!

This time as once or twice before we were asked to return with documents proving we own the house – that is a long story in itself. But for this complaint session (or essay as my amigo Steve Cotton likes to call it), let’s just move on to the fact we returned the next day with requested documents.

At that time we were advised that we would be required to pay 500 pesos ($35.50 usd.) to change the water bill into our names – huh?

“The water bill is in our names.’’ We showed them receipts from previous years, and the current water-official is a store owner we have also know for about five years. And yet he insisted our names did not appear in ‘the book’. “But where are your copies of the receipts we showed?”

“They are in a different book” he said.

We should add here that at least once in the last 5 years during a regime change all the money in the coffers and the records disappeared with the previous administration. This a very common Mexican occurrence.

We assured him we had already paid, we think more than once, the 500 pesos to change names; and furthermore, “Why would we have receipts with our names as owners going back to 2011 if the service was not in our names?” But we did not have a copy of a ‘contract’ – more huh?

Anita suggested that perhaps we as foreigners were being taken advantage. Blank stares on that comment.

Seems logical. But that was the end of anything logical. We moved into the final act of any of these encounters – the blank stare conversation came to an end. Others waiting were starting to be attended to. Maddening!

We decided to abandon the good fight and of course logic, and just pay the 500 pesos – gladly accepted; and we have another receipt and a brand new ‘contract’ in our names. Will this be the end of confusion? Time will tell. But, if I were a betting man, I would not lay down one on this not reoccurring next year. Stay Tuned!