Tag Archives: building a house in Mexico

Brown Jays 2 Grackles 0

29 May

A lazy quiet week is not a bad thing, even when that still small voice in my head tells me that I should be accomplishing something. Sigh.

This morning there was a smack down between the brown jays and the grackles. No, they’re not soccer/football teams, but the birds of our yard. Lisa and I were meditating when the screeching started.

View of the zapote tree from our porch.

We have a large wild zapote tree on the Laguna, out our back window. It attracts black squirrels the size of small monkeys, birds and our dogs who also love the small, brown fruit it produces. Zapotes, also known as sapodillas are unusual tasting, sort of like a cross between a pear and a kiwi in texture. Our tree is quite prolific and huge.

Our zapote is wild and the fruit doesn’t grow as large as cultivated zapote.

Lisa and I meditate every morning. The birds began making a racket this morning like I have never heard before. If I’d known I was going to write a blog on it, I would have recorded them. It went on for almost twenty minutes.

When I got up to investigate, I saw the large zapote tree full of irate brown jays chasing the grackles out of “their” tree. It was hilarious. Brown jays are bigger than grackles and very, very loud.

I finally put on headphones. This is life in the jungle, peaceful but certainly not always quiet.


Walking under the zapote tree to go for a swim.

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!


Our bright functional beautiful kitchen today.



The floors were newly painted. Sept 16, 2015


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.


Counter on the east wall. This morning.


One year ago.


Pantry off the kitchen. During and after.

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


The mistress bathroom. 


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


I’m Not A Hugger

22 May

I distinctly remember the first time I saw my oldest brother hug my father. We were not a demonstrative family and I bolted upright in surprise. There were few hugs or I love you’s after about ten years old. While the embrace shook my world, it was the 70’s and I chalked it up to the times.


My youngest brother on the left, died of brain cancer in 2000. Oldest (of 4) on right.

Fast forward many years and I now live in Mexico, the land of huggers. It is not uncommon to be introduced to a stranger and have them embrace you and plant a kiss on your cheek. BTW, you are now family.


Alice living the good life in Mexico.

Speaking of family, I have been adjusting to life with my mother-in-law Alice who moved to Bacalar in December. She has also been adjusting to life with me. Not only does hugging not come naturally, nor does “please, thank you or I’m sorry”. I was raised a Yankee and I can be bristley, a lot;  in other words, I’m a pain in the ass.


Visiting Palenque.

I am also teachable. I’ve asked Lisa to point out a missed opportunity to be softer, gentler, kinder. That goes for all of you too my friends. A hug or a kick in the pants can sometimes be the same thing. DOS TORTAS



It’s Noisy In The Jungle

17 Apr

Living forty feet from beautiful Laguna Bacalar, thirty minutes from the southern-most border of Mexico and Belize has its disadvantages, not many, but one in particular. It’s noisy, with screechy birds, and the neighbors.


Neighbors To The South

Sound travels without buffer over the water. We can hear the conversation on a boat out on the lake from quite a far distance. Strange voices make the dogs go ballistic, barking and being the guard dogs that they think they are. The music from the neighbors can also seem like it’s in our bedroom. Thank God for earplugs.


Princesa Luna, Intrepid Guard Dog with a Big Voice

It doesn’t help that we live in a concrete bunker and sound bounces and echoes throughout the house. It’s beautiful but a bunker. Rugs help, but not much.


The Hammock – My Favorite Spot


Large Windows and Doors for Air-Circulation (no air conditioning)


The View From the Laguna

For three days this week we’ve been listening to the roar of chainsaws. They seemed close, but it’s hard to approximate with just sound. Yesterday we were in a near panic. Who is tearing up the jungle to pave paradise and put up a parking lot?

I finally walked to the end of our dock with my binoculars. To my surprise and relief there were guys making repairs to the dock that belongs to our neighbor two lots south of us. Such relief.


Checking Out the New Dock With Neighbor and Fellow Kayaker Teresa

The inconvenience of birds, a party to which we were not invited, barking dogs and the rare sound of chainsaws is not unique to living in Mexico. We bump into each other as humans in so many ways. For the most part, I’m just fine with it. Thank God for earplugs. DOS TORTAS



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. 


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.


Kitchen Cabinets


Bedroom Artwork


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.



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.


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


Living in Mexico – Settling In

17 Jan

It is the dream of many to retire to a tropical climate in Mexico. After years of saving, research, and selling off our home and possessions in Austin, Texas, Dos Tortas came to be. Our blog tells the story of living on lovely Laguna Bacalar, the second largest lake in Mexico, for two and a half years in preparation for construction. Welcome/bienvenidos to our home….


Stages of construction.

We purchased the lakefront property in 2012. It was a rough sloping lot with potential, close enough to the town o Bacalar to ride our bikes to the mercado.


25 meters x 100 meters (.62 acres)

There were many hoops to jump through in order to build in an environmentally sensitive area. An impact study was not in our thoughts as we signed a purchase contract.


We’re hanging pictures!

Dreams of our crystal blue lake, swimming “out back”, kayaking, and boating danced in our heads. We could see the end result but did not explore adequately the process to get there. But that is behind us as we settle into our new home. In Mexico!


Our new “couch” was installed on Friday.


The fountain near the outdoor bathroom is trickling down the rock face.

There are interior details that have yet to be completed. A rooftop patio is on the drawing board. We have enough projects and gardening to keep us busy for a long time. Stay tuned.



Mass Shootings or Farmer’s Markets

6 Dec

Bloggers living in Mexico notice with increased interest when scarey stuff happens in the USA. By comparison, Mexico is looking good. 


Myself, I try to avoid the news. It’s hard to do I admit. Whether online or on TV there’s such a pull to understand the non-understandable. I refuse to be afraid.


So instead, I will present another aspect of California that hasn’t made the news lately. The Tortas visited two really nice farmer’s markets on our recent trip to California. I always head to the ethnic food vendors. Mediterranean was especially good at both Windsor and Bakersfield markets.


Olives, dates, tabouli, hummus and pitta bread are all impossible to find in our little corner of Mexico.


Of course, every Mexican village has the most wonderful mercado. They are filled with hundreds of items you don’t get in the US, fresh coconut water, tree ripened bananas, and plants and pottery that are really, really cheap.


US-style farmer’s markets are catching on in Mexico where there are large foreign populations. I attended one in Merida and they were selling bread! Mmmmmm. Fortunately or unfortunately one will never appear in Bacalar. We live in a part of Mexico with a very small foreign community. Which is just the way we planned it.


Green juice vendor in Bacalar.

So if you’re looking to move to Mexico, don’t come because you’re afraid of the US. You’ll bring your fear with you and be equally unhappy here. Just my opinion.


Everyday Courage

15 Nov

At seventy-two, leaving your home of fifty years to move to Mexico. Making the decision to grab the brass ring and being terrified. “What if….”

Courage, that’s my mother-in-law. Meet Alice, the newest Torta.

Exploring the pyramids of Palenque, January 2014.

Exploring the pyramids of Palenque, January 2014.

Alice visited Bacalar almost two years ago for a month and made the decision that yes, she would move to live with us in Mexico. None of us expected a two year wait for the green light.

Putting a life in storage.

Putting a life in storage.

We are here to pack her things, and hold her hand through a scary, emotional process.

A house full of

A house full of “collections”.

Alice is downsizing considerably. The rule is, if it fits in the truck you can take it. She has ten plastic bins. When they’re full, we’re done.

Could YOU do it? I’m not sure I could. She can always move back of course. This next year will be a trial period for all of us. An exciting year for sure.


Benefits of Friendliness

1 Nov

Driving in Mexico, we think nothing of being pulled over by youngsters with machine guns. We smile and are relaxed, but then again, we are Dos Tortas.

The upper portion of our hutch. Skylights above add natural light.

The upper portion of our hutch. Skylights above add natural light.

Bacalar is thirty minutes north of the Belize/Mexico border. Because of illegal entry and the smuggling of goods, there is a checkpoint before entering Bacalar from the south. Vehicles are flagged for inspection according to a selection process that is not obvious to us. However, a large black pickup with Texas plates….

The window between our living room and bedroom. There will be a bifold door to provide privacy when desired.

The window between our living room and bedroom. There will be a bifold door to provide privacy when desired.

One week when we were making numerous trips up and down the highway, making purchases for the house and going to the bank, we were pulled over several days in a row by the policia estatal, state police.

Keeping the dogs from digging in the garden. Aren't I clever?

Keeping the dogs from digging in the garden. Aren’t I clever?

The usual questions, Where are you going? Where are you from? What is in the truck?

This time I told the officer that he knew us. I reached out to shake his hand and introduce ourselves. His face lit up with a big smile. He clearly enjoyed our response. Now every time we pass the check point we wave and guess what? They wave back. We haven’t been stopped again.

Day of the Dead. A chance to tell stories and fondly remember our ancestors.

Day of the Dead. A chance to tell stories and fondly remember our ancestors.

I’m sure others have horror stories about being stopped by the federales. Once in college I had a machine gun aimed at my face. Being Dos Tortas or two old women makes us pretty invisible. Not being afraid makes us respected.



Rainy Day Sunday on Laguna Bacalar

18 Oct

It seems Mother Nature decided to make up for this year’s lack of a rainy season on Laguna Bacalar, all in one week.The birds love it and lord knows we need the rain. The sky is grumbling and showing no signs of letting up. Gotta love it.


Our ramp turned water slide.

It’s been a good opportunity to see how all the landscaping in our new house manages runoff. But mostly it’s been a forced stay-at-home opportunity to relax. We’ll have to do some tweaking on the landscaping, but all in all, it looks pretty good. The big challenges living here are wind and rain. It comes with the territory in this most southern part of North America.

The carpintero came yesterday to install an interior door. His progress is slow since most of his work is done outside. The door is stunning, so we don’t mind waiting. This week we will have kitchen shelves installed. ¡Gracias a dios!


Jose Lewis master carpenter.

We also managed to get some artwork on the walls. Lisa and I bought a lovely wooden wall sculpture in Valladolid on our Tour de Yucatan this past June (2015). The colors match perfectly don’t you think?

Our Lady of Guadalupe, sacred Catholic icon.

Our Lady of Guadalupe, sacred Catholic icon.

I was raised Catholic and The Virgin of Guadalupe has always been the female expression of God to me. It actually seems like our house was built just for her.


View including the porch.

Another piece that we bought on the Yucatan trip was a mother and child mestiza woman. She sits in our little rainy-day bamboo garden.

The bamboo explodes with growth in the rain.

The bamboo explodes with growth in the rain.

While we are enjoying the cool weather and adjusting to life in the jungle, we continue to heal, Lisa from back surgery and me from chikengunya (see We Plan God Laughs) All is well, just very wet.



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