Tag Archives: retire mexico

Life’s Little Delights

6 Jun

On Thursday this week, I was driving along the main highway toward Belize, on my way to have brunch with a friend. She lives alone and is quite isolated. With both of us vaccinated, we had made plans to meet up for some huevos divorciados. I left home later than I intended for our appointment at ten. While mindlessly zipping along, I noticed that the sky was studded with lovely big pillowy clouds against a blue blue sky.

Love these clouds as seen from my hammock.

Up ahead, I saw a motorcycle on the shoulder. It’s headlight was on and facing towards me. I thought it odd and swung the car wide to give him plenty of room.

What I saw next caused me to laugh out loud. The motorcycle was a bit wobbly, as the man tried to set off with an ungainly load. There was a child on the front, the driver and two young women behind him. One of the women was carrying a goat!

Not quite the same but you get the idea. Stock photo.

I have no picture on my phone but a delightful memory. It reminded me of Lisa and my 2005 trip to Thailand. It was our first introduction to scooter culture. It is a fine art, but absolutely anything can be carried on a scooter.

The colors of my art.

So that was my excitement for the week. It’s not much, but I’ll take it.

DOS TORTAS

Death Knocks

30 May

It was a sucker punch to the stomach this week, when I received the news on Facebook that a dear friend has cancer. And not just cancer but stage four, liver, lung and bone cancer. Suze and I have been friends for almost thirty years. We met on a shuttle from the Michigan Women’s Music Festival in the 90’s. My life has been so much richer knowing this crazy woman who makes me laugh. We’ve been to each other’s weddings, and a boatload of parties. We’ve had sleep-overs for New Year’s Eve and watched the Texas low-budget, cult classic Sordid Lives in our pajamas. When she retired from social work, this dynamo took up real estate and sold our home in 2013 so Lisa and I could scurry off to be Dos Tortas in southern Mexico.

In 1999 Lisa and I had a commitment ceremony before marriage was legal. Suze was there.

There was a year of tests that came back negative until they didn’t. No treatment, 3-6 months, get your affairs in order, say your goodbyes.

Suze is the queen of having your affairs in order. In her long career as a social worker, she was the head of Texas Partner for End Of Life Care (TxPEC) which helped develop directives for physicians and clergy to better assistant the dying. It’s because of her fearless advocacy that many have had the hard conversations and their wills are in order.

I am glad that Lisa and I will be back in Texas this summer. We will sit together, hold hands and create final memories. I love you Suze and you will always be in my heart and at least you’ll never have to go on another diet!

DOS TORTAS

Life is A Blooming Delight

23 May

We had a bit of long overdue rain last night. There are many flowers blooming, but I thought you might enjoy seeing the orchids popping up here and there. I once tried to raise an orchid in Austin, Texas. Epic fail. It can be done, just not by me.

This little orchid is currently blooming by our dock. It is very fragrant,
Aren’t they gorgeous?

There are more than 25,000 species of orchids worldwide. In the Mexican tropics, where we live, orchids pretty much raise themselves. They thrive in the humidity and shade, clinging to a tree trunk. They are epiphytes, non-parasites, living on another plant, wild and free. They’re a delightful surprise to find while walking around the property, a pop of color and in some cases a whiff of sublime fragrance.

So delicate.
This beauty ( Phaelaenopsis or moth orchid) bloomed for three months in the earlier part of this year.

So kick back. Enjoy whatever is blooming in your life, yard or neighborhood. Life is good and I’m grateful.

DOS TORTAS

Finding My Way

25 Apr

Swimming has now become a daily routine. I no longer have to brace myself for the plunge into chilly water, as days are creeping into the 90s (32c) on Laguna Bacalar in southern Mexico. The water is getting noticeably warmer and in a month or so, it will feel like stepping into a bath.

I have been working on my swimming stroke for years studying and practicing Total Immersion Swimming. I point my nose toward the bottom, keeping my neck and spine aligned. Catch and pull toward my thigh while cork screwing my body through the water. Pull, rotate, pull rotate, 1, 2, 3. Kicking is not the frantic churning of feet in an effort to propel oneself through the water. Stroke, kick, stroke, kick. It’s a beautiful dance gliding with the grace of a porpoise (at least I try) rather than laying flat like a squat tugboat. 163, 164, 165.

Sometimes I count, sometimes I sing, “Imagine all the people, living life in peace, you ooo may say I’m a dreamer….” I also like to float on my back watching the clouds and the birds. An occasional kayaker passes but for the most part the lake is all mine.

There is one thing, with all this pulling, and singing and counting, I am swimming all over the place. There are no lane lines as in a public pool and I’m not sure if it’s the currents, the wind or my uneven pull, but one minute I’m paralleling the coast and the next I’m heading for open water. I zig and zag and without repeatedly lifting my head, I never know where the heck I am.

My goal is to reach that point off in the distance.

I suppose it’s all a metaphor for life. Some days I certainly am going around in circles. Regardless, when I climb the ladder out of the water, I am flush with gratitude, a feeling of supreme accomplishment and a laugh at not knowing where I am or where I’m going, but so happy to be alive.

DOS TORTAS

In Search Of Poo

16 Apr

Before moving to Mexico from Austin, Texas in 2013, I had tried my hand at gardening for years with minimal success. Raised, postage stamp, and self watering beds were always fed from the compost in the corner of our yard and the rainwater collected off the roof. We even built a PVC Quonset hut, covered with shade cloth in the summer and plastic in the winter and hung with lightbulbs to survive the occasional freezes of Austin’s unpredictable weather.

One year I had a surprising success with a small bed of strawberries. Our grandson, Hunter would walk in the front door and out the back in search of all the tiny, sweet, red morsels his pudgy little fingers could find. Another year I had a bumper crop of cucumbers and then could never grow them again. Mostly I was feeding the insects. Gardening is both an art and a science, and while I’ve learned a lot, my green thumb seems to be intermittent at best and completely nonexistent the rest of the time.

Hunter and Lisa

I had big plans for coming to the Costa Maya. Surely the tropics would support my lifelong dream of a smaller footprint if not outright sustainability. We would grow our own veggies! We hauled gardening tools and various sundries in our six foot trailer, none of which contributed to our food-growing success.

We do have a lime tree which I planted before the house was built and is producing enough fruit for our use. I have a very sad, sickly avocado and a mango tree that may be large enough to produce fruit before I die.

One sad avocado.

We’ve built a row of beds, hauled in organic soil and again with the shade cloth. Every beginner gardener’s veg, the lowly radish was a dismal failure. Tomatoes, squash, lettuce, and cilantro all withered. This week, with dogged determination, I set off to find manure aka estiércol aka poop (cow, chicken, or goat).

Rancho Bacalar

There are many ranchos out in the less populated areas surrounding Bacalar, how hard could it be to find manure?Our search took us to a corral and house set back off the road looking like something right out of a Texas playbook complete with cowboys, horses and of course, cattle.

Bramin cattle. So beautiful and curious.
The foreman, welcoming and helpful.
Her foal was tearing around not liking that mama is a working girl.

We were directed toward a pile of seasoned dung, filled three trash cans and were off. The foreman told us to come back anytime and blow the horn and someone would open the gate. Mission accomplished. I still won’t hold my breath on the avocado.

DOS TORTAS

MAYBE

Not A Food Blog

8 Apr

There was nothing in my childhood that compared with walking into the house after school and smelling my mother’s spaghetti sauce bubbling on the stove. She learned the art as a young bride in Newark, New Jersey in 1942, living in an apartment complex peopled with Italian immigrants. The women took pity on her, taking her under their collective wings to teach her how to cook.

My parents as newlyweds.

She used large cans of peeled whole tomatoes and small cans of paste to thicken the crimson mixture. Garlic, oregano, basil, bay leaves and an array of Italian spices gave the sauce its deep, rich fragrance. It’s funny how a particular aroma can transport you through time and space. Spaghetti sauce is my mother’s kitchen.

Staples you will find in my kitchen at all times.

I remember returning home as an adult to find a jar of prepared sauce on the kitchen counter. I expressed my shock at her sacrilege, but she only laughed. No longer cooking for a large family, with just my dad and her, she took the easy way. I can’t blame her but it was certainly not as good.

Can’t you just smell it?

I continue to make her sauce recipe. I don’t cook it for hours like she did, and I’m sure it doesn’t taste the same. With my own family, I got in the habit of adding a lot of vegetables, mushrooms, cauliflower, grated carrots or zucchini. It was a way to make it a bit healthier (IMHO) and get vegetables into my kids. But I do still use whole tomatoes and paste and lots of garlic.

Three generations circa 1994.

My daughter always asks me to make spaghetti when I come to visit. In this day when children no longer wish to inherit possessions, my mother’s spaghetti sauce can live on. I think that would make her very happy. It certainly does me.

DOS TORTAS

Accepting Life’s Fire

28 Mar

In 1982, I couldn’t make up my mind which to pursue in my artistic quest, quilting or weaving. Then a job in a local quilt store was posted in the Austin American Statesman and I jumped at it. Do you remember the days of job hunting in the columns and tiny squares of newsprint? The Sunday edition always had the biggest Help Wanted section. One weekend, I hit the jackpot.

Bolts of fabric.

There it was, a part-time job in a hole-in-the-wall establishment that belonged to a mother/daughter team who claimed to be related to Willie Nelson. I don’t know about that, but they were an interesting pair who knew a lot about quilting. I applied with a little sewing experience and a lot of enthusiasm, and got the job.

I made this at the request of my mother. She collected cows. (The striped fabric)

I remember women excitedly coming into the store with ideas and patterns in hand eager to buy fabric and make magic. The shop walls were covered with bolts and more bolts of solids, calico prints, and stripes in all colors and shades. We happily pulled them off the wall and piled colors high to see the affect they would have when cut up and reassembled into a Grandmother’s Flower Garden, Log Cabin, Star of Texas or any of a million patterns old and new.

Lone Star
Notice the state of Texas quilted in the corners and armadillos across the bottom. The quilt was a gift for my mother-in-law who died of Alzheimer’s disease. It was later returned to me.

The owner would peruse our artistic efforts and pull out a special bolt she called the “fire”. A pink, yellow or orange fabric that was inserted into a blue, brown or green quilt. It was opposite on the color wheel. The customers would raise an eyebrow to which she replied, “trust me”.

Log Cabin
Machine pieced and hand quilted. All quilts made by me.
A variation on a Grandmother’s Flower Garden 1984
Hand pieced and hand quilted.

I am doing my best to trust life when it presents me with its “fire”, whether a pandemic, broken leg, or cancelled trip to visit the grandchildren. When the quilts were finished, sure enough, those unexpected bursts of color made them all the more beautiful. I hope I can say that about my life. The challenges teach me lessons I surely wouldn’t have volunteered for. The unexpected provides the fire, and for that I welcome it, to the best of my ability.

DOS TORTAS

Perhaps Swimming

21 Mar

It’s not surprising that reports of mental health issues are on the rise in this time of Covid. When my youngest brother died of brain cancer in 2000, I sat on the couch every night for a year, it was as close to depression as I’ve gotten.

Michael on the left. His hair was growing back after his first brain surgery,

One of the things that pulled me out of the dark was swimming. Last night I found an old diary where I wrote about loving to exercise, specifically swim.

Training for the Bacalar open water competition several years ago.

I moved to Bacalar to be able to swim. I have the answer to the blahs in my back yard, cold water and exercise. I just have to do it. My goal this week is to get up earlier and swim before the wind picks up causing the waves that make it more difficult. The motivation of even ten years ago is more difficult to find these days.

My triathlon days.

Fingers crossed it works. Seems I cross my fingers a lot these days.

DOS TORTAS

Ain’t it the truth.

Like Broccoli Only White

28 Feb

This week was my birthday. We went out to dinner Friday night to one of the new little restaurants popping up in Bacalar. Per a recommendation by our local residential list serve, we heard they had vegan options and good prices,. We dandied up a bit and headed the three miles into town.

A Xolo is a hairless Mexican dog which dates back to the Aztecs.

I am a person who would almost always choose to eat at home, but Lisa needed a break, and Alice insisted on paying, so off we went.

Happy birthday to me.

When I asked the waiter, in Spanish, what was in the vegan tacos, he replied, “cauliflower, it’s like broccoli only white “. I thought I would fall off my chair laughing. He clearly doesn’t have a lot of experience with vegetables! The tacos were delicious with their hecho a mano, handmade blue corn tortillas. I would definitely go back. The music wasn’t too loud. The food was tasty and I’m still laughing.

DOS TORTAS

A Very Different Sort Of Weekend

21 Feb

Last week, I was hugging the toilet and not after a night of debauchery in Cancun. Truthfully I’ve never been a debauchery kind of gal, but back in my youthful days, when guys in Mexico would keep the drinks coming, I learned about alcohol the hard way.

Celebrating my 21 birthday in Mexico. Heading out for a night on the town with my best girl.

Now, after living a sedate retired life in Mexico for seven years, I’ve never been this sick. And I’m still not sure what caused the intestinal upset, fever, etc. A course of antibiotics seems to be doing the trick and upping our hygienic game is in the cards. We buy all our produce in a small town mercado. It was probably only a matter of time, although outbreaks of things I can’t pronounce occur in the US food chain all the time.

A lovely small town market in Bacalar.

Wednesday I left for the much postponed trip to the US Consulate in Playa del Carmen, to renew my expired passport. The bus ride was quiet and socially distant. The required masks contributed to the tranquility and I curled up and slept most of the four hour trip.

First trip out in a pandemic.

The little boutique hotel that I had booked turned out to be a real gem. The room was $45US and included a full-on off the menu breakfast. My stomach was finally starting to accept food and I enjoyed it immensely.

House of the Flowers
Seafood soup for dinner. Very typical Mexican food.

Playa del Carmen was hopping and the little I got to see hobbling around on my still painful ankle was mostly mask-less. Turning my paperwork in at the consulate was the easiest and least painful part of the trip. I’m now sitting in the bus station waiting for the return trip to Bacalar. If I had postponed yet again, I probably would have been able to enjoy myself more. And against the voices in my head, the consulate wouldn’t have cared a bit. Oh well, live and learn.

DOS TORTAS

Emilie Vardaman

travel and random thoughts

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