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A Tiny House in Mexico Revisited

25 Mar

via A Tiny House in Mexico

I thought I’d update a few pictures of my mother-in-law’s tiny house. It’s been one of my most popular blog posts. 

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Entrance

All is well. Just a stumble. 😂 I even predicted it.

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Tiny House Plans

Alice has been visiting California and missing her cozy nest. Her kitty is also missing her.  I think I know more of what it feels like to be a house sitter as Lisa is away as well. Whatever you do this week, make it an adventure.

DOS TORTAS

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Art Rendezvous Merida 2018

11 Feb

I love to wander the streets in a delicious city like Merida, taking in the sites and peering into interesting shops.

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Today I happened to glance to my right side and into a large courtyard and saw this….

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A pedal loom.

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Close up of a work in progress.

Not waiting for an invitation, I walked in to gaze at its beauty. As my eyes adjusted to my environment, I noticed large wall hangings, rugs, quilts and tablecloths. It was a store.

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No one jumped to wait on me, as is the case in many shops. No one was eager to practice their English, call me “lady” or begin the high pressure sales pitch. I climbed the stairs to find two salesmen helping other gringos, so I wandered around delightfully ignored. A bright turquoise, my favorite color, wall hanging, caught my eye and I asked where it was from. The salesman shrugged his shoulders and said he didn’t know. Some sales technique! He could have made up a good story. I’d have believed him.

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Won’t this look great in my house?

This beautiful piece wanted to come home with me ❤️. I rarely give in to impulse buying, but….who could resist? Not me! We struck a deal and off I went feeling rather pleased with myself.

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Day Four Hacienda Santa Cruz – SOLD

After a week of watercolor painting, I guess you could call it shop therapy. Saturday night was our show. Sunday morning I am off for Bacalar to my Sweetie and puppies. I am so ready for my own bed. My painting skill grows each year but it’s stressful. Until next week.

DOS TORTAS

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The Road Less Traveled

7 Jan

I recently read that dogs need two thirty minute walks daily. As a result, I am now doing for the dogs what I haven’t been doing for myself, exercising.

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Hurry Mom lets go!

The road in front of our house runs parallel to the Laguna and is sparsely traveled. Luna and Frida can run off-leash and have a blast sniffing and peeing to their hearts content. Luna is afraid of strangers which makes her act all crazy and aggressive toward anyone we meet. Frida gets stupid around vehicles, so our little Mexican country lane is perfect.

 

 

Lately there’s been holiday guests at the hotelitos up the road and more construction. As a result, walking became less fun. So when I found a trail through the jungle which avoided both, off we went to explore. I do not know who cut this wonderful path or why. Perhaps the nearby campground thought its guests might use it. I have not met another hiker in the two weeks we’ve been walking and the dogs are safe chasing squirrels, agouti, or wherever their nose takes them.

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Entrance to the trail. Luna knows the way.

For me the hike is a chance to be in the moment and relish the beauty of my surroundings. I hear birdsong, my dogs and quiet. Some days I amble, others I walk hard, using my trekking poles to avoid a twisted ankle. The dogs sleep better and so do I.

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Jungle selfies.

Here’s hoping you have a place of peace and renewal and visit it often. If it’s outside and gives a sense of adventure, that’s icing on the cake. On the other hand, if you’re huddled indoors trying to stay warm, you have my blessing. Come to Bacalar.

DOS TORTAS 

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Happy Tropical New Year 2018

31 Dec

Self-reflection and the start of a new year seem to go hand-in-hand. Goals, intentions, plans, resolve, diets and exercise programs are a part of many people’s annual tradition. Not so for me, at least not this year.

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Blooming succulent.

For many years I had the tradition of making two lists.  One was my accomplishments from the past year (courses, travels, projects, books read, etc), which I would compare to my list of intentions written on that January first. The other list was my intention for the coming year which I would then review the following January. It was surprising to compare the intentions and the accomplishments on the first of each year. Something than never made either of those lists was moving to Mexico.

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The entrance to our property completed.

I have been a very driven and goal oriented person my entire life. I never thought I would simply let it all go. There are no more lists, timelines, tracking, or weighing. At least very little. Could it be because I live in Mexico? The tropics? Or because I’m retired? Probably all three.

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Daily showers and everything blooming.

This lovely Mexican culture has definitely influenced the amount of time I spend hanging out in the hammock. Don’t get me wrong, there’s much I enjoy, daily jungle walks, kayaking, painting, gardening and my new found past time, weaving. There are very few deadlines, self-imposed or otherwise, unlike having worked a government job for many years.

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Afternoon showers.

So if I were going to give a few suggestion for 2018, hey, why not? They would be – do less, relax more and spend more time with a puppy sleeping in your lap, hammock recommend but optional. Happy New Year 2018.

DOS TORTAS

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Frida – Mexican Street Dog

10 Dec

This past summer I lost a little dog we adopted from the street, ChaCha. She escaped our yard and got hit by a car. My heart broke and I cried for days. When our friend Carla posted sad pictures of a little dog she found running the streets of Bacalar, I was wary. I wasn’t ready for another heartbreak.

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A bad case of mange.

Carla had to go away for the weekend and we volunteered to keep Frida “on a trial basis”. She arrived and we were totally smitten. Frida moved in like she was home. No questions asked. Smart puppy.

Carla reported that she had taken her to the vet who thought she might have had distemper. Naive and clueless that we are, we thought she was ok after the treatment. Truth is, there is no cure for distemper. She had a head bob and tick in her rear leg. She drank a LOT of water and had difficulty swallowing.

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An infected rump. Who could resist those eyes?

The first night we immediately felt that Frida had a fever. Off to the vet we went. She was very underweight. We got the best food we could think of and made a mush out of blended chicken and rice to help her swallow.  Taking turns, it took an hour to hand feed her. As much came out as we put in and we were both covered in puppy schmutz. We were struggling.

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Discovering toys. Her coat much healed.

We took Frida to a veterinary hospital in Chetumal for a second opinion. The sweetest vet sat us down and told us that Frida only had a 50/50 chance of survival. She had to be kept away from our other dogs. She didn’t tell us to put her down, but you could tell that she wanted us to consider it. My heart broke again.

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We decided to fight the good fight and left the hospital with vitamins, wet food, antibiotics and muscle relaxants for her twitching. I continued hand feeding her. She wanted to eat, but was not getting the food down well. I got scared and hopeless, especially since I was leaving for a week in Oaxaca and Lisa would have to care for her on her own. Frida was a special needs dog.

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Caught snoozing.

While I was gone, a miracle happened and Frida began eating. It was slow going. She would lay on her belly and pick up the food one pellet at a time. And boy did she eat. After I got home it was clear that she had gained weight. She had more energy and was so glad to see me.

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And she continues to grow.

I took her for her follow-up visit and the vet was shocked. Frida was declared a miracle. Our skinny little puppy now has a belly. She runs and plays and her head bob has diminished. Her favorite activity is still a nap with me in the hammock. She also loves walks and is determined that Luna will like her. While everyday is a miracle, some days are just better than others. DOS TORTAS 

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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

The Tortas Welcome Their First Texas Visitors

2 Nov

The week leading up to Day of the Dead has been busy. It is a fun time of year in Mexico and we got to share it with our first visitors from Austin, Pat and Don. Many people have said that they would visit us. Pat and Don have been the first to show up. I vanpooled to my job at the State Health Department with Pat for many years and we have kept in touch.

Art showing in Chetumal for Día de Los Muertos

Art showing in Chetumal for Día de Los Muertos

We got to show off our town, visit the Pirate Fort, swim in Cenote Azul and shop in our lovely mercado.

Cenote Azul

Cenote Azul

The weather was perfect for a boat ride to float the channel and enjoy botanas,  a glass of wine and snacks near Bird Island. Turn up the volume and enjoy the cacophony.

Thank you Gabriel and Monica.

Thank you Gabriel and Monica.

We called ahead for a memorable sunset and Mother Nature did not disappoint. Our gift was the most spectacular sunset imaginable for our friends. We anchored for the birdsong, lightshow and good company, a perfect evening.

Breathtaking Beauty for our guests.

Breathtaking beauty for our guests.

Pat and Don boarded a bus for the Cancun airport on Tuesday to continue the second leg of their trip, visiting Oaxaca. Oaxaca is known for its Day of the Dead celebration. I hope the rest of their trip was as enjoyable for them as their visit to Bacalar was for us.

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Cobá Center of the Mayan Universe

26 Oct

Since moving to Mexico, Lisa and I have wanted to visit the pyramides of Cobá. It is north, turn left at Tulum and follow the signs. There was a tropical storm predicted but we were unfazed. The weather in Mexico is much like Texas, wait an hour and it changes.

Entrance

Entrance

We arrived early to beat the crowds. Tour buses can empty out and make even a spacious site such as Cobá (almost 50 sq miles which housed 50,000 people at its peak population) feel crowded.

Walking through the jungle.

Walking through the jungle.

We spent $20US for a tour guide. Ixmael, a local guy who taught himself English. He made our trip fun and answered our endless questions.

A great guide shows us around.

Lisa with Karen Flowers, our friend  from Tulum.

Pedicabs made the trekking easier after climbing the highest pyramid in the Yucatan peninsula.

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Nohoch Mul is 138 feet tall. It will be closed to climbing in 2015.

130 steps to the top.

130 steps to the top.

View from the top with rain cloud.

View from the top with rain cloud.

Cobá has wonderful carvings, columns and early Mayan ball courts.

Put a leather ball through the ring without using hands or feet.

Put a leather ball through the ring without using hands or feet.

Stone columns.

Stone columns.

Carving of a Mayan king.

Carving of a Mayan king.

Watching over a grisley ritual.

Watching over a grisley ritual.

They jungle itself was also amazing.

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Shopping opportunity outside the gate.

Shopping opportunity outside the gate.

Driving home, the sky amazed as always.

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The pyramids of Mexico give us added respect for a country with an ancient history. You’re welcome to ride shotgun with the Tortas as we work our way around the Yucatan. See you next week.

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Sunrise of the week.

Sunrise of the week Laguna Bacalar.

You Can Never Have Too Much Inspiration

7 Sep

After the bulb went off over my head about two years ago and I began researching places to retire, I wasn’t 100% sold on México. Lisa and I had made travel an important part of our life. Every trip, Thailand, Turkey, Belize, even the lesbian capital of the world, Provincetown, MA evoked the question, “could we live here?” I guess it was clear that Texas wasn’t our final destination.

Saying adiós to family before leaving Austin.

Saying adiós to family before leaving Austin.

During the research period, a movie came out, with Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, and Dev Patel called, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (for the elderly and beautiful). It isn’t often that a movie has almost all it’s main characters in their sixties and seventies. It also made me laugh out loud.

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A group of aging Brits moves to India to seek an affordable retirement. They discover, that the hotel they are moving into has been photo shopped on the internet by its young and optimistic owner,  played by Dev Patel (Slum Dog Millionaire). His enthusiasm for the future invokes trust (also the fact that they all bought one-way tickets); drama and mayhem ensues.

The south end of Laguna Bacalar.

The south end of Laguna Bacalar.

Besides the joy I experienced watching these characters make choices that transform their lives, there are wonderful inspirational dichos, sayings, that are really the take-away message.

The measure of success is how we cope with disappointment. Disappointment is all about living in the past and wishing things had been different. It took me a long time to figure out that it’s a distraction which keeps me from learning and making different choices now.

There's always a storm somewhere.

There’s always a storm somewhere.

The person who risks nothing, does nothing, has nothing. I have learned along the way the pitfalls of choosing a life based on safety. It is costly and tastes like cardboard. I love to read inspirational stories of people who step out and grow wings.

Harvesting from our property

Harvesting from our property

All we know about the future is that it will be different. But perhaps what we fear is that it will be the same. So we must celebrate the changes. I can never be reminded too often to celebrate the change in this aging body. I am more relaxed and peaceful and that’s big for me. I still exercise but it’s by choice and because it makes me healthier and happier.

Lisa, her mom and me visiting the pyramids of Palenque.

Lisa, her mom and me visiting the pyramids of Palenque.

I am a big believer in filling my life with inspiration. At the same time, I strive to find inspiration in all things. If you haven’t seen The Amazing Marigold Hotel, add it to your list of things that inspire, no matter how old you are.

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And my favorite quote…Everything will be all right in the end and if it’s not, then trust me, it’s not yet the end. 

The Benefits of Struggling to Learn Spanish

10 Aug

The New York Times recently posted an op-ed called The Benefits of Failing at French. I can relate.

In 1973, with the already aging brain (linguistically speaking) of twenty-one, I began the lifelong journey of learning a second language. I came to Mexico in the fulfillment of a childhood dream to experience my junior year abroad. I lived with a Mexican family who spoke no English. I had classes four hours a day, four days a week and drank mucho cerveza to loosen the tongue. Over the long weekends and breaks, I traveled as much as possible and fell in love with a culture and people that were difficult to explain when I returned to New Jersey.

Sunset in Cozumel.

Sunset in Cozumel.

In the more than forty years that have passed, I have both clung to and completely forgotten my desire to return to Mexico. As I began entertaining thoughts of retirement, memories of living here ignited fireworks and the rest is, shall we say, her-story.

Crossing the border almost a year ago woke the Spanish synapses that were more than a bit rusty. Those old feelings of my brain aching and not being able to remember words in either language came roaring back. I am happy to report that my Spanish has greatly improved in a year. I have resisted studying and have chosen to learn by practicing. I have conversations in Spanish as often as I can and find that my brain hurts less these days. Yesterday I even had a conversation on the phone, which I usually avoid, as there is no opportunity to read lips. I must admit that when friends comment on my improvement, I want to preen my feathers and crow.

Hotel La Semilla in Playa del Carmen from our recent visit.

Hotel La Semilla in Playa del Carmen from our recent visit.

Lisa had no ability to speak Spanish, other than the curse words picked up on a job site, when we arrived last September. Her first vocabulary words were highway signs on the drive down. Her learning approach has been different from mine. She uses a popular set of educational CDs and a workbook that I bought her. She now converses with locals and orders easily in a restaurant. The reason for her skill is that she doesn’t give up and she isn’t afraid to make mistakes. Our friend’s parents call her the parrot because she uses her thirty or so words, hugs them and leaves. They see her progress and love her effort. More than one of us has something to crow about.

Sunrise this week on Laguna Bacalar.

Sunrise this week on Laguna Bacalar.

So I recommend that you read the New York Times article and don’t miss the comments. Our brains need the challenge. Our changing world needs us to understand one another. What better way than to learn another’s language. And I’ve heard that the third language even gets easier, no matter what age you are.

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