Archive | February, 2015

Eating Organic in Mexico – An Adventure of a Different Kind

22 Feb

The Tortas are on vacation. Please enjoy a previous post.

A large part of moving to Mexico for me was driven by the memory of roaming local mercados brimming with fresh fruits and vegetables. In 1975, as a college student in Mexico, I gorged on whatever was in season, especially relishing avocados and tropical fruits not found in my native New Jersey.

As with everything inthe world, times have changed, and in 2014, asking a merchant in the Bacalar market where their produce is from often results in a blank stare. For this reason, I have thought often of the organic farmer’s market left behind in Austin, Texas. I willingly paid higher prices, which included the privilege of meeting the farmers who grew and brought their culinary wonders to my neighborhood.

On Saturday, the Tortas were excited to take a road-trip to a local organic farm that we’d heard about. After driving 40 km or about 25 miles, we came to what’s otherwise known as Kilometro Cinco (five).

An easy-to-miss wooden roadside stand fronts an amazing farm owned and operated by a husband-wife team. All work is done manually. There is no roto tiller pulled behind a tractor. The rich earth in this soil poor area is the result of twenty years of composted chicken manure. It is obvious that these folks work hard, love what they do and have a green thumb that I can only dream of. We followed them to their fields and were in awe of the crops that were harvested before our eyes. It doesn’t get any fresher than this. There was eggplant, cabbage, kohlrabi, two kinds of espinaca (spinach), red and green lettuce, arugula, chard, bok choy, basil, Serrano peppers, dandelions and probably more that I’m forgetting. It was a Spanish lesson as well. I will have green smoothies for days. Kilometro Cinco is a treasure and well worth the trip. Our huge basket of veggies, farm eggs and oranges cost about $10US. I’m in heaven and no longer dreaming of farmer’s markets.

Rows of lettuce and peppers.

Rows of lettuce and peppers.

Growing in the jungle.

Growing in the jungle.

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Harvesting as we go.

Harvesting as we go.

Though For The Day

Though For The Day

Taxes and the Retired Expatriate

15 Feb

Let me start by saying that Lisa is in charge of taxes. She tells me what to do and I do it as we prepare for a trip to the States and a visit with our accountant. This week I found myself in a familiar place, stressing about money. It happens every time we fly to the States which involves airplane tickets,  car rental, eating out and the laundry-list of purchases that we intend to bring back. My stomach knots, my head spins and I don’t sleep well. It’s not fun for Lisa and certainly not fun for me.

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Trumpet Vine at Casita Carolina

This morning I was doing my tax assignment, gathering my W-2 and investment balances. The fog lifted and I came to the conclusion that I DO NOT HAVE TO WORRY ABOUT MONEY! Stop it, cut it out, quit!

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Blooming aloe on the patio. The bees love it.

As a partnership of two women, we have never made the big bucks. I have a small State of Texas retirement, social security and a portion of a former spouse’s retirement. What I did right was save a portion of every paycheck as soon as I made any money. I maxed out my IRA’s for years. Even though friends and fellow employees poked fun at my taking the bus, bringing my lunch, and general modest living.

Orchids on Cozumel Island

Orchids on Cozumel Island

This morning I did the math. I gave myself thirty more years on the planet, subtracted what we’ve put aside to build the house, and added in my retirement checks and voila. I’m fine. We’re fine. I have nothing to worry about.

Petaluma, CA last summer.

Petaluma, CA last summer.

It really has nothing to do with money, but my frame of mind. Remembering to be grateful, throw in all the people who love me and I really never have to be afraid about anything, ever. Relax, breath.
DOS TORTAS

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Sometimes the Hardest Things Are the Most Wonderful

8 Feb

Who knew a week of watercolor painting could be so exhausting? Was it fun? Hell yes! Did I learn a lot? Most definitely.

16th Annual Watercolor Workshop.

16th Annual Watercolor Workshop.

But probably the biggest gift was a chance to immerse myself in a group of women artists for a week. They were my cheerleaders when I felt discouraged. Every evening we gathered with our day’s work for critique. We were vulnerable, sharing our process and self-doubt. How often does that happen? Their suggestions for added color here and more definition there, made my paintings pop and kept me grounded.

Caroline, Kim, Teresa

Caroline, Jo, Teresa

The work we produced was epic. It was painting-on-demand with no chance to walk away for a few days and let things percolate. We were on the clock with a showing on Saturday. As much as I hate it, magic happens under pressure.

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The community celebration on Saturday was a multi-cultural event with great music, delicious food, new and old friends and a chance to sell our work. The owner of Aluxes, the hotel where we painted on Wednesday bought almost all the fabulous paintings made of his hotel.

Aluxes Hotel and restaurant, Bacalar

Hotel Aluxes, Bacalar

No one broke even as we turned around and bought each others’ paintings. I may not have a house yet, but when I do, it will be full of memories and Rendezvous beauty.

There was a bidding war for this painting. I loved doing it.

There was a bidding war for this painting. I loved doing it.

Rendezvous entertainment.

Entertainment by Escenario Libre

Finding the words to wrap up the week’s workshop fails me. Painting was the medium for the connection, which if you think about it, is the truth about life in general. It’s always about loving each other first, is it not? From that base life can be really lived. What a fabulous lesson brought home by this wonderful experience and these lovely women.

Thank you all for leaping with me.

Thank you all for leaping with me.

The Artist Next Door

1 Feb

“Art has so many sides, so many possibilities.” These wise words posted by one of our blog followers inspired me to continue sharing the artistry that is Bacalar. Christmas Eve we met our neighbors Abraham and Isabel. Abraham is a stone and wood sculptor with his work currently on display at a local resort. We spent a fun day recently oooing and ahhhing and generally being inspired by Abraham’s work.

Abraham Illescas

Abraham Illescas

The pieces are viewed best by walking round to experience all sides. Clearly this is not the perfect venue. The stone makes you want to caress the coolness, smooth and rough. Abraham “finds” stones, or maybe they find him and works to release the beauty within.
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Abraham is working on an installation for the Modern Art Museum in Mexico City in a few months. At the same time, all pieces are for sale, a common struggle of all full-time artists.

Wouldn't this piece look wonderful in your garden?

Wouldn’t this beauty look wonderful in your garden?

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This is my favorite piece, carved from a stone found holding open a door in a small Yucatan hotel. Maybe its forever home is my yet-to-be built house, displayed with the perfect lighting in my living room .
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Abraham and Isabel sat with us at dinner last weekend. They wave when they see me out on my bike. It has been really fun getting to know them and continuing to open my eyes to the artistry in Bacalar.

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