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First Of All Have Fun

19 Feb

I’ve always considered myself a creative person. After all, I was an “art major” in high school which translated into hanging out with a cool crowd and having fun! In college I quickly learned that my lack of marketable talent meant bleak job prospects. I ended up with a degree in English and a blog. And so it goes.

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What all the fashionable watercolorists standing in a cemetery are wearing.

Upending our lives and retiring in Mexico has given me a chance to recreate myself. Part of that recreation, besides napping in a hammock has been watercoloring. Painting has always been one of those “back burner” dreams for someday when I retire.

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A sweet mother and child park scene. Learning about perspective.

Last week’s blog was a walk down memory lane as I participated in Rendezvous 2015. I haven’t painted much since, and I was excited to travel to Merida, Yucatán for Rendezvous 2017.

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Carolyn, our mistress of ceremonies  is a painting unto herself. The entrance to Hacienda Misné day one.

The gist is, we paint on site at a different location daily for five days. Merida is enchanting with its mercados, parques, churches, a massive cemetery and of course, the nearby beach in Progresso. The hard part was picking a subject. Each evening we critique each other’s work. It is a growth opportunity or a fork in the eye, depending on whether you take it personally.

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Progreso beach scene.

The agreement is to produce five paintings, all matted and ready to display. We had a gallery showing/party on Saturday evening and felt very accomplished and exhausted.

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My favorite of the week, a lovely little market scene.

Our happy little band of participants has varying levels of skill and experience. People always say, “oh, I can’t do that.” NOT! I’m here to tell you it doesn’t matter if you’ve never painted. My motto is, not know what I’m doing has never stopped me before. Be fearless, be bold, but most of all, have fun!

DOS TORTAS

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Can You “Plan” Adventure? But Of Course

15 Jan

We have been in our little house along the coast of beautiful Laguna Bacalar in the tropics of Southern Mexico for a little more than a year. The walls have been settling around us. Our gardens are bursting with color from a long rainy season. Life is good.

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Waking every morning to an amazing sunrise.

We left our life in Austin, Texas and made this extraordinary move in 2013 with certain pre-conceived ideas that were completely subconscious. Traveling and living in a foreign country is a great way to hold up a mirror to one’s assumptions. Here are some things that surprised us about our new life.

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Orchid like flowers blooming in the jungle. 

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A stone cross found in Valladolid, Yucatán. 

It’s not as easy to take off for the weekend and travel as we had imagined.

This may be a no-brainer for you but dogs are a lot of work. When we adopted Luna, our first dog ever, she was a throw away street puppy. We didn’t really think through all the ways she would impact our lives. Everyone told us, you HAVE to have a dog. Of course we adore her, but like every other relationship, there are inconveniences.

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A sad little puppy who needed a home.

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Lisa and Luna enjoying tour of the lake.

Leaving our house unattended for more than a day or two is not a good idea. There is crime of opportunity, much like in the US or anywhere else in the world. An empty house is a big opportunity. Since we have chosen not to live with bars on the windows, having a house sitter is the way to go. Finding the right someone takes time. Travel is less spontaneous than we had hoped. Another inconvenience.

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The front of the house.

We have also turned into the proverbial home bodies. The view from the porch is to die for. We can swim and kayak in our back “yard”. The food (my cooking) is the best and our bed is supremely comfy.

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So the “Adventures” of Dos Tortas has been looking more like the laid-back, staid life of Dos Tortas. We are not complaining.

As of today, I am happy to report there are adventures in the planning. Can you “plan” adventures? Stay tuned. We’ll try to step it up a bit.

DOS TORTAS

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Bark Sniff Poo Repeat

28 Aug

The exercise, entertainment and care of Princesa Luna requires daily forays into the mosquitoey jungle. We clothe our bodies head to foot and douse in repellant, especially at dawn and dusk. I don’t think she appreciates us.

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The lane in front of our property.

This week I brought my camera along. Taking a picture with a dog dragging me along does not lend itself to the best shots.

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There are always flowers blooming. Watch the sharp points on the leaves. Ouch.

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Luna knows the way.

The path is surprisingly refreshing as the hot sun does not penetrate the jungle canopy.

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Why did the tarantula cross the road?

Luna is so curious about everything. This tarantula would not hang around to play.

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Lovely green wall.

There is an open property up the way where Luna and I run and play. I lust after cuttings of this cactus. I must return with my machete, gloves and NO dog.

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The jungle is also home to these amazing blue butterflies. They are the size of your palm and impossible to photograph.

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She doesn’t look one bit guilty. Maybe a little.

If it weren’t for Luna insisting that we go for a walk, several times a day, we would miss so many amazing things. We have seen fox, coatis, parrots and more. I guess life  in the jungle is a dog’s paradise. Ours’ too. DOS TORTAS

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A Matter Of Perspective

14 Aug

A year ago we were up to our eyeballs in the construction of our house in Bacalar, Mexico, a small town near the southern border of Mexico and Belize. We had bought lakeside property in 2012 and then returned to our home in Austin, Texas to turn our lives upside down and retire to Mexico. Eight months later we kicked off the Adventures of Dos Tortas. And what an adventure it’s been!

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Our bright functional beautiful kitchen today.

 

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The floors were newly painted. Sept 16, 2015

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Building the center island. Lots of sanding. Aug. 24, 2015

Our followers can’t seem to get enough pictures of our house, so I thought I’d post some before, during and after photos. It gives us perspective on how far we’ve come. Gratitude, gratitude, gratitude.

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Counter on the east wall. This morning.

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One year ago.

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Pantry off the kitchen. During and after.

Here are a few more pictures. Some days we have to pinch ourselves.

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The mistress bathroom. 

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Guest Bath. Building a stub wall.

Pictures of the outside will be in a future post. Thanks for this little walk down memory lane. As you can see, we’ve come a long way baby. DOS TORTAS

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Don’t Pour Gasoline

31 Jul

I try to keep my life chill. When a problem arises, too often the pull is to pour gasoline rather then step away from the ledge. I make problems bigger and scarier rather than talking them down. This week I had the ultimate test of my resolve…a car accident.

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Pulling out of our drive in Austin, Texas

The Tortas drive a large Ford F-150 truck that was perfect for hauling our possessions to Mexico but does not work well maneuvering in a small town like Bacalar.

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A busy mercado with limited parking.

During a quick stop at the mercado to pick up some veggies for dinner, I found a taxi double parked in front of my little fruteria and leaving me little room to maneuver. I squeezed through but did not leave enough room to pass the car parked on my right. I clipped the bumper and tore it off completely. My stomach began to flip flop and I was in a panic before I even got out of the truck. We all know what’s it’s like having a car accident, not fun at best and a complete life-altering disaster at worst.

A man and his wife and adult son emerged from an older sedan.  They circled the car, pointing out damage and shaking their heads. My fear was that they would call the police. It’s not that I’m afraid of the police, but the more people that get involved, the higher the price goes.

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Local police.

I didn’t know what to do. They began discussing mechanics. I was pouring gasoline.

When I asked what they wanted to settle things, the man meekly asked for two thousand pesos which I did not have and was an outrageous price. I pulled a 500 peso bill from my wallet and offered it as compensation ($30us). The woman looked me in the eye and said, “we’ll take it”. I handed her the money and we shook hands. When I came out of the store, they were gone. To put this in perspective, most laborers make about 250 pesos a day for hard manual labor.

It took me hours to get the adrenaline out of my system. How often do I create problems where there are none, but there “could be”? Valuable lessons were learned, among them, always deal with the woman. DOS TORTAS

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The Gods Were With Us

26 Jun

Watching a wall of rain barrel across Laguna Bacalar is a breathtaking experience. There’s barely time to batten down the hatches before the tormenta strikes. During the rainy season we close up the house before any outing, no matter how clear the sky or the weather predictions. You just never know.

Last weekend was the maraton or swim across as we fondly call it, across Laguna Bacalar. It’s a three quarter mile swim with hundreds of flailing bodies. I saw three boats almost run into each other trying to get to a swimmer requesting help. People were panicking in water that wasn’t even over their head.

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Over a thousand registrants.

The weather was perfect and the Laguna calm. The sun even peaked out as the race was beginning. After days of torrential downpours, the gods were with us.

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Checking out our medals.

Swimmers come from all over Mexico, Central America and the US to participate in this open water, fresh water event. There were many young people who left me far behind, some old people too. My official time was 37m 33sec. Not bad for not having trained. I was experiencing residual pain from the kayak marathon.

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Team Bacalar – Shawn, Alex, Jim, Polly and myself

I know so many people that say that they hate to exercise. I don’t go to the gym because I love going to the gym. I go because I can sleep better, walk further and lift more without hurting myself. I go because it helps me live in my body in a way that nothing else does. DO TORTAS

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Blog follower Emily came from San Miguel to swim!

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Drama, Drama, Drama

1 May

Adventures can be unexpected and come in all shapes and sizes. But must they include drama? This week I was taking Princesa Luna to the veterinarian in Bacalar. She has a rash and scratches persistently. Luna loves Dr. Joel. He gets eye to eye with her on the exam table and she just wants to lick his face off.

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In the middle of the exam, his assistant came in to tell me that the tire on my Ford 150 was going flat. Oh no! I left Luna on the table and ran out to the truck in a panic, to hear a telling hisssssss.

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My name-sake. Tire Mechanic and Car Wash Alex

I knew if I didn’t get to the llantera (tire shop) fast, I’d be tasked with changing a truck tire. I have changed many tires over the years. I can do it, I’d just rather not. Returning to the vet’s office, I was in a tailspin. He looked me softly in the eye and said, “tranquilo” (be calm), that he would keep Luna and I should go take care of the tire.

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I flew for the nearest tire shop several blocks away and was glad to see an empty bay. Eric greeted me and set out to expertly change my tire.

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The Waiting Room

I believe it didn’t take ten minutes to produce the nail that was the culprit, patch the tire and put it back on the truck. The cost? About $3.50 US and about five years off my life.

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Service With A Smile

Going into fear and drama over some perceived problem is a bad habit of mine. I would have been inconvenienced by a flat tire but it wouldn’t have been the end of the world. And certainly not worth giving up my peace and happiness. Life in Mexico is much less stressful than in the US. But as the old saying goes, “wherever you go, there you are.” So what drama have you participated in lately? Remember, “tranquilo“.

DOS TORTAS

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Now Is As Good A Time As Any

24 Apr

Did you ever have a plan, idea or project that you put off until the time was right? I had LOTS of them. Retiring and moving to Mexico was going to give me the opportunity to raise from the dead all the things I loved to do but didn’t have time for in the crazy work-life I lived in Austin, Texas. One of them was sewing.

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I am not particularly good at sewing. I haven’t owned or touched a machine in years. But I grew up in an era where ‘Home Ec’ was a requirement in high school, for girls that is. Along with typing, it was the most practical course I ever took.

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Pretty Baby, a tap routine.

My mom sewed because I danced. Three year-old’s dance classes had recitals and recitals required costumes. Moms made them, at least mine did. There were sequins, satin, fringe and marabou feather trim. She spent hours at the sewing machine.

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Little Red Monkey costume edged in marabou that itched like hell.

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Notice the Shirley Temple curls. My mother tried so hard.

There was also the requisite apron I made in Girl Scouts. Not until high school did I start making simple shorts and dresses, mostly to save money. I learned on my mother’s Singer and later bought a Kenmore that I used to make clothes for my kids. By the time sewing began its comeback in the new millennium, I was up-to-my-eyeballs in family and job. Sewing was added to the back burner for “someday when I retire”.

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Girl Scout Brownie Salute

While prepping for the move to Bacalar Mexico, I bought a great little portable machine to enhance my retirement life. It has lots of bells and whistles and is light as a feather. I took it out of the box for the first time this week. Time to take this baby for a spin! It’s been in storage along with the rest of my life for three years. What is on YOUR back burner? DOS TORTAS

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My new Brother portable.

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Some Things Just Don’t Translate

10 Apr

When I went to school in the 1970’s in Cholula MX, I lived with a rather poor family who rented rooms to students. One day I came home for lunch and to my dismay, found the teething toddler gnawing happily on a boiled chicken foot.

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If you go to the mercado to purchase a whole chicken, the bag usually includes the feet and sometimes the head. While that is a significant ewww for me, the dogs have no problem with it.

There are two words in Spanish for feet. Pie (pee ay) is for human feet and pata (pah tah) means animal feet or the feet of a chair. Once my friends George and Sandy went all over the market asking for “pie de pollo (chicken). People thought they were a bit loco.

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There is a new restaurant in Bacalar that we’ve been dying to try, Pata de Perro, Foot of the Dog. They opened a lovely second story patio overlooking the town square. I had hoped to try their food before writing the blog, but that didn’t happen. Reports are promising.

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I do my best to eat a plant-based diet, but chicken is the primary food in this neck of the woods. Most people raise and slaughter their own chickens and occasional pigs as well. They have to be healthier running around the yard than the poor caged creatures eaten in the states.

We eat mostly at home since the availability of vegetables in restaurants is not much different in Mexico than in the U.S. It is fun trying new restaurants. I will feature them from time to time. Have a great week. DOS TORTAS

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Reader Updates

6 Mar

For the last few months we have blogged about the standoff with neighbors, the house construction, and my fall. So what the heck’s going on? Time to spill the beans. 

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Roof Porch

Our lovely roof porch is ready for furniture, plants, comfy cushions, a ceiling fan and lighting. I try not to be in a hurry and allow a space to speak to me. The accessories will show up, along with my kitchen stools, all in good time.

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Kitchen Cabinets

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Bedroom Artwork

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New Dresser Drawers

All woodwork is custom made from locally harvested hardwood cedar.  We have bathroom, living room and studio shelves left. The carpintero is a master. He moves at his own pace and complains weekly about the difficulty of the work. The bathroom shelves will be curved. This week he scratched his head while taking measurements and said, “pero sí se puede“, but yes, it can be done. He then preens when I tell him that he is just the man for the challenge.

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“Goat”Fence

Ah, the neighbors…we put up what is known as a goat fence on the lower level of the property to allow Luna to be outside off leash and unable to escape. Apparently the neighbors thought is was some sort of claim to their property and tore it down. The municipality will not override the federal marker in the laguna without going through channels, even though we have tons of supporting evidence that it is in the wrong place. Channels take time. I went over to explain to the workers next door that the fence is for the dog only. We’ll see what happens.

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The Goddess Kwan Yin

My hip is vastly improved since my fall six weeks ago. I am without pain and I’ve returned to my usual exercise routine of stretching, going to the gym and daily swimming. Lisa’s mom has moved into her own house and things are quiet. Time to finish unpacking and settle in. Life is good. DOS TORTAS

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