Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Goodbye year.

What a wacky couple of weeks it's been.
First, it snows. Then it snows a lot more. We STILL have some piles of it in the 'hood. Snow meant some short days at work, because I didn't want to be stuck in the dark trying to get home. I've never seen roads like this. Until now, anywhere I've been that gets a foot of snow that lasts a week also has snowplows.

I've also had two short weeks at work. Three days last week and three days this week.

You'd think that would mean I wouldn't get much done. But with no one else there, the days seemed a lot longer. I even filed today.

We also had company -- my big brother and my niece's family. That was delightful. And it made the same long days go by very quickly at home.

I should probably reflect on the year 2008 at this point.

This year, we took a risk and lived in Mexico for three months. We learned a lot about what we want and don't want our lives there to be like. We also learned how much our boyz enjoy traveling . . . which led us to consider the whole RV idea. And that idea has not left our heads.

We also took a spectacular vacation in Croatia, Albania and Greece. While we were out of the country, the U.S. financial system verged on collapse. Ross and I are still standing. But we may not be taking any more spectacular vacations for awhile!

I'll also remember 2008 for the presidential election. I don't remember any phenomenon quite like it. The idea that we weren't choosing between Dull and Duller this time was really electrifying. I got addicted to some political web sites, when for the past several elections I've been avoiding that stuff.

In the business world, 2008 turned out to be a nightmare. That's what I read about all day long.

For me, however, this year was a good one. I hope it was for you. I wish you an even better year in 2009 -- and may all your resolutions come true!
The photo is from Flickr creative coomons.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Blizzard!

Okay . . . I'm exaggerating. But just a little. It snowed. All. Day. Long. Crazy, huh?

Ross had a "procedure" this morning and I had to be there to take him home. So at 7 a.m. we drove to Fremont in the snow. Then we came home around 9:30 in the snow. The office was open, so I drove downtown in the snow. I wasn't very happy about the accumulation, so I drove back home at lunchtime in the snow.

I think it's done snowing here for a little while. But it looks like snow for Racine tomorrow.

My brother arrives here tomorrow. We'll have a nice white, wintry welcome for him!

In other news: I'm very sad to say that I'm coming down with a terrible cold. Bleh.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Fingerless mittens


I thought I invented this. But I looked it up and lots of web sites showed up. So that's deeply disappointing.

Last week I was very cold at work. Mostly my hands were freezing. I drank coffee all morning and tea all afternoon, just to have a hot mug of something to hold on to.

I tried everything.
My mouse pad has a wrist rest. It feels like someone stuck it in the freezer for a week. So I thought about putting it in the microwave . . . but, on second thought, that seemed like a bad idea. Carcinogens? Fire alarms? Forget it.

I read about a heated mouse. That, at least, would keep fingers warm. But I didn't order it and lost track of the site.

I complained to Holly the receptionist about my problem and she said, "Fingerless gloves!" But that seemed a little restrictive. Typing is my livelihood, after all.

I know some people who wear leg warmers on their arms. (Yes, Zoompop, I'm talkin' about you.) But my arms were fine. It was my wrists and hands.

My mom used to sew wristbands into my new jackets for winter -- and that was wonderful. (Thanks, Mom!) So that provided some inspiration.

Then I remembered, when I got cold on our trip, my sweetie bought me a very nice hoodie in Dubrovnik that has little thumbholes in the sleeves. I incorporated that into my design.

I put all those ideas together (except the heated mouse and the coffee) and I got the incredibly original invention in the picture which has already been invented by many other people.
Before I realized how many other people were already doing this, I was thinking about starting a business (if I could just think of the clever name). I figured out about how much I'd have to charge. Let's see . . . at my hourly rate . . . that's about $594/pair. Plus materials . . . $594.72. Oh, don't forget shipping and handling. We're up to $598.22.
Any takers? If you need them before the weekend, I'll need to add a $50 rush charge.


HO-HO-SNOW!


We got a nice accumulation of snow last night. The dogs seem to LOVE it. I assumed it would keep them from smelling stuff, but apparently it isolates and highlights the new smells. Mmm-mm.


So we had a very fun walk this morning, checking it all out. Thank goodness my new shoes seem to be very "grippy." Falling on my butt is no doubt entertaining for those watching, but I hate it more than almost anything I can think of.


Here's a photo of Ross's truck under the snow. (Is the house across the street really that color?)


Friday, December 12, 2008

Grinch.

I hate to admit how much I don't like company holiday parties. I don't really like parties much at all, except the ones I give. I'm shy and awkward. There. I said it.

Our company party is tonight. We've gotten so young and hip where I work that the party doesn't start till 8:30. Cracks me up. That's about when I start thinking it's time to go to bed. I'm sure all the young hipsters won't show up till at least 9. That's when I get out of my chair and go upstairs to get ready for bed. The music and dancing will probably start at 9:30. That's just about when I drift off to sleep.

I will go and show my face. Then all the young hipsters can feel young and hip and superior in comparison. I'll be the one yawning in the corner.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

I lived.

I met several people today. I have the business cards to prove it. This is an interesting conference. Several very, very big companies are represented, but there are only a few hundred people -- so it feels pretty exclusive.

It was a long day. I'm pretty sure I'll be writing about the whole thing on the Hacker blog.

Tomorrow, at the end of the conference, I rent a car and go up to Racine. Yay!

It's started to snow -- so what started as a green conference will end as a white one.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Chi-town.

Does anyone but me remember when Chicago was called Chi-town (pronounced Shytown)?

Even though I lived pretty close to Chicago, I never got terribly familiar with it. I visited it most when I was in my twenties, living in Madison. I stayed close to Michigan Avenue (the Miracle Mile) during those days.

Right now, I'm staying in the theater district. Dirty Dancing is playing next door. (Tagline: "Nobody puts Baby in a corner.") When I was in my twenties, Dirty Dancing was a Patrick Swayze/Jennifer Grey movie. Wicked is playing down the block.

It's chilly here, but not awful. I walked eight blocks from my hotel to the opening reception for the conference and wasn't in any real pain -- even though I didn't wear a hat. It's true: it's cooler near the lake. And breezier.

The reception was all about networking -- and I'm proud to say I met several people and stayed for well over an hour. Tomorrow's sessions are punctuated every couple of hours with networking breaks. I hope to live through it. (Argh.)

Sunday, November 30, 2008

The most wonderful time.

Everything is as we left it here -- except the dogs are being extra affectionate. (They like us, the really like us!)

We missed them an awful lot, too.

By the way, the rest of our time in Ajijic was really nice. We went to a matinee one day for The Last Legion. I'd never heard of it. I don't know if it's still playing here. It started out pretty bad, but I liked it by the end.

We went to Pedro's Gourmet for Thanksgiving dinner with our new neighbors, Ron and Kathy. On Friday we went out with our good friend, Claudette. She keeps us updated on all the local news.

It's now officially time to start thinking about Christmas. We're going to a Christmas concert at Benaroya Hall tonight. It's the choir from Seattle Pacific University. I'm very excited about it. It reminds me of going to hear my sisters sing in the Park High School choir. Best memories ever.

So, now that it's the season, do you have any Christmas wishes I should know about?

Thursday, November 27, 2008

What's different this time.

Every time we come to Ajijic, we go through a mental list of what's changed and what hasn't.

This time, it seems quieter -- even though it's festival time. St. Andrew is the patron saint of Ajijic and his feast day is November 30. The festival leads up to the big day. The fireworks at 5:30 a.m. don't even wake me. The ones at night go off for maybe two minutes. The mariachis parade past -- they don't set up camp nearby for an all-nighter like they have in the past. The action seems much more focused on the plaza this year.

Part of it is that it's chillier than it was the last few times we were here for Thanksgiving -- so all our windows are closed. At least the ones that can close.

The egrets are gone! No jub-jub birds discussing politics all day long -- at first I thought the Obama win must have left them speechless.

The real reason is that "they" destroyed the neighborhood trees the birds hung out in. I honestly don't know who "they" are. It was two trees on two different properties. The one we can see wasn't cut down -- just de-limbed. So it's quite ugly. If you want to cut down a tree, you need to pay for a permit, even if it's in your yard. I think "they" thought they could get away with not getting a permit this way.

I'm sure the birds just moved someplace else, but I imagine they were stressed out by it. Even though they bothered me, I feel bad for them. I also feel bad about the trees.

The lake has gotten very full. VERY full. If you've been here, you might remember the park with all the picnic tables to the west of the Ajijic dock. It's now flooded up to the top of the benches. They have sand bags placed around the park . . . but they haven't quite done the trick. On the other side of the dock, the water comes pretty close to the doorways of the houses and businesses. You used to be able to park there.

We walked along the lake for several blocks west of the dock. The soccer field is complete drowned -- you can only see the top couple of feet of the fence behind the goals. A tennis court looks more like a fence around a fish farm.

I'm reading a history of Lake Chapala -- and apparently up until the 1950s it flooded fairly regularly. So I guess this is a sign of returning health. I'm just glad our house is a block or two away from the beach.

This afternoon, we're planning to take a walk to the lake near our house. I'll try to take some pictures and upload them when we get back to Seattle.

Monday, November 24, 2008

That was a heavy toothbrush!

I didn't need much more than a toothbrush.

But (as you can tell) I brought a computer . . . and my e-book reader . . . and my iPod . . . and a couple of books . . . and some magazines. Heaven forbid that I get bored! My backpack probably weighed 30 pounds, but it was all I needed to bring.

Just about everything here at Casa Gecko was in working order, except we were out of gas (so no hot water and no oven or stove) and our satellite TV wasn't functioning. That's really not much, considering the usual running around it takes to get the Internet going or the phones working or fix a crack in a ceiling or whatever we find. The place was clean, too, since Ana has been continuing to come here every week.

Of course, we haven't been gone that long.

No mangoes on the tree yet. The bananas are gone. The limones are still coming. They are a year-round treat.

Ajijic has its own Walmart now. We had to go check it out. It's not that big a deal, really. I was expecting something outrageously big, but it's about the same as the average Fred Meyer in Seattle. Which is big. And it's about the same size (I think) as Soriana -- the Mexican Fred Meyer -- just down the road. They've had a recent facelift and it's much more attractive than Walmart. Walmart is probably three or four kilometers closer to us.

I don't shop at Walmart in the States, because they have such a bad reputation in their dealings with labor. But (totally hypocritically) I shop at Sam's Club because they have really great stuff and it's cheap. And I'm afraid if Walmart were more convenient than the places I normally go to, I'd probably be tempted. It's easy to be a Walmart snob when they're out in the middle of nowhere.

To balance out our Walmart trip, we stopped at a little store on our street yesterday to buy some onions, potatoes, chiles, etc. We spent $1.35 there.

I've spent more for a replacement brush for my fancy electric toothbrush!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Toothbrush.

Ross called me at work today to ask whether I'd be checking any bags at the airport tomorrow.

No. I figured I could get everything in my carry-on and backpack.

Then, for the rest of the day, during free moments (usually in the ladies' room), I'd think . . . what do I need to pack?

Finally, it occurred to me that I had brought my electric toothbrush back to Seattle from Casa Gecko in August. Yep. That's what I need to pack.

I used to obnoxiously remind people about my upcoming vacations, just to make them jealous. That got a little old. Now I can brag that I don't even have to pack!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Travel plans.

Haven't gone away in awhile. Ross went to Sacramento last week. But I've stayed home for months now.

Next week Friday, we return to Mexico. I wonder why I've thought not at all of Casa Gecko since we left. How completely it has left my mind. I focused hard on being here in Seattle with all my heart. And it worked. Now I feel a little guilty -- like I have mistreated a friend.

We'll be there for a week. We've been in touch with one or two people who will be there at the same time. We have reservations at Pedro's Gourmet Restaurant for Thanksgiving dinner. Just $15 per person -- beat that!

Then, the first week of December, I'll be attending a conference in Chicago.

Yeah. That's cool.

But better than that, I'll be spending the weekend in Racine! I haven't been back there by myself since well before I got marrried. I'm thinking the summer of 1993. Maybe. I'll miss Ross, natch, but I'm kind of excited about the chance to relax with Mom and Dad and visit with my sibs.

Those are the plans. What about you?

What's new with you?

I haven't had much to say . . . but some people have been saying they're a little tired of coming here and seeing sweet potato chips. I have to admit it was quite some time ago that I devoured the last chip.

I just don't have much to say.

We elected a new president since then. But I'm pretty sure you knew that.

Things got very busy at work. Now it's slowed back down to a reasonable speed. But that's not terribly interesting.

Da boyz got excited yesterday morning when two off-leash dogs came running down the street. Slick got so riled, in fact, that he slipped out of his harness and attacked the small dog. I'm pretty sure the little dog is okay. She managed to get her teeth into Slick's paw -- and he totally deserved that and worse. The owner was apologetic that his dogs were off leash. But the whole story is just embarrassing and I don't want to talk about it.

I participated in an all-day paddling clinic for dragon boating a week or so ago. Ross bought me a really cool new paddle -- just in time for the clinic. So that was cool.

Ross is finishing up a series of Sunday School classes on "Signs, Symbols and Mysteries of the Church" this coming Sunday. And that's awesome.

Oh . . . and I was a guest speaker at a UW Executive MBA class on direct marketing on Friday. I enjoyed it immensely. It's a lot easier holding the attention of a class full of people who are getting graded than conference attenders.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Aren't they beautiful?


These are sweet potato chips Ross made for our friends last night. He also whipped up a blue cheese and honey dip that was completely addictive.
Plus there was a comforting, filling, beef chili and fresh corn pudding. Oh. And pumpkin pie with real whipped cream.
This is what you miss when you're not here on Friday.
You also miss the warm fellowship and sometimes warmer discussions of friends who are also family. Don't get us started on Sarah Palin. Or teachers' salaries. Or epistemology. Or whatever got us all riled up last night.
I love our Friday nights.
Today we went to RV school. We signed up for this when we thought we'd be a lot closer to buying an RV about now. It was still helpful and interesting. We'll get there, but it may be a few months later than we thought.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

My civics lesson.


I finished jury duty Wednesday, so now I'm free to say anything I want about the case.

It was quite interesting and it couldn't have been any easier. So all that dread about jury duty was totally wasted. I'd do it again in a heartbeat.

I told you that I wasn't on a jury for a trial, but for an inquest. An inquest is an investigation, in a way -- but the investigating is done. They present all the witnesses and evidence to us, and the jury comes to a decision about the facts of the case. Any time a police officer is involved in a death, there's an inquest.

This inquest was about a state trooper who had to shoot a man on the freeway last Christmas Day. The man got out of the car he was riding in, started pounding on the car behind his, ran onto the freeway, stopped traffic, took off his belt and waved it around hitting cars. His pants fell down. (People who called 911 said he was exposing himself, but that didn't seem to be the point -- he just appeared angry.) The first police officer on the scene shot him in the back with his tazer, but it didn't have any effect except maybe to enrage the man, who then charged the officer. They got into a scuffle where the man seemed to get the upper hand -- he grabbed the officer around the chest and hit him with his fist. The officer managed to break free, pulled his gun and shouted at the man to stop. Instead, the man charged him again and the officer shot and killed him.

There were a number of witnesses. We listened to half a dozen of them with very similar stories. The Department of Transportation cameras were turned on -- so we even saw video of the whole thing. It was all very, very thorough.

After we were dismissed, I looked up the story online and realized that what you'd read about it wouldn't be totally accurate. Keep that in mind when you read the newspaper!

I got my absentee ballot and voted today. So I'm feeling all civic duty-ish and self-congratulatory.

Please vote!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Jury duty.

I can't really say anything. I'm on jury duty. I'll have to get back to you in a week when they let me talk about it.

I will say this much. I'm on an inquest jury, not a criminal or civil trial jury. That seems a lot better to me. I don't have to decide whether someone is guilty. Whew.

The other thing that turns our life upside down is getting our hardwood floors refinished. We spent the weekend emptying out the living and dining rooms. It was nice to know it was possible to do in a weekend. (Although a lot of work.) Now I don't want to unpack it all. Can we just ship everything to Mexico?

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Odds and ends.

Ross left on an overnight business trip this afternoon, so I'm doing a few odd jobs today. Like catch up with you!

I went to dragon boat practice yesterday morning, and -- since it's been nearly a month -- I'm very, very sore today. I take comfort that my soreness is all in my torso and not my shoulders. That means I must be doing it right. (Although I got a massage yesterday afternoon that focused on my neck and shoulders, so maybe that has something to do with my lack of soreness there.)

We were supposed to have a follow-up meeting with our realtor yesterday, but he canceled. He's done that a lot. I don't know if that means he's not excited or it's just (bad?) luck. I know we're not that excited right now. We keep thinking this is a bad time to sell -- but then we think, "Is it just going to get worse?" I'm quite sure that we won't be putting the house on the market until after the beginning of the year -- maybe spring or summer.

Ross started teaching a new class this morning on Signs, Symbols and Mysteries of Christianity. He showed a lot of photos he took on our vacation, since we went to a lot of Roman ruins with many Christian symbols on them.

That's everything about my odd weekend.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Poor Bob.


While we were gone, Bob had a run-in with a rose bush. He captured a thorn in his neck, and developed an abcess. Ouch! Looked like a goiter.


Ross took him to the vet today and had it drained. Da boyz are afraid of the vet. But, apparently, Bob was very brave. Slick cried like a girl. I expect they'll both sleep well tonight.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

The rest of the story.

I didn't have access to the Internet until now and I didn't do a good job of writing down what we did every day, but here are the installments I did write . . .

Dubrovnik, the first time. (September 14.)

So now we’re in Dubrovnik. That’s also in Croatia. But you knew that.

We went through about five kilometers of Bosnia-Herzegovina. (They have a little patch of land that gets them to the coast.) But we’re now safely back in the Croatian heartland. Well, the heartland is probably up near Zagreb somewhere. But here we are.

We were on a bus all day. So far, not much in the way of actual cruising for a cruise vacation. Our whole group is starting to chant, “where’s the boat?” But tomorrow is another bus ride. We don’t even get to see Dubrovnik yet, until later in the cruise. And Dubrovnik looks very cool. From the high-walled outside anyway. You know, we went all over Tuscany looking at these medieval cities . . . but they seem to be much better preserved here.

We spent some time in a beautiful little walled city called Trogir today. It’s very complete. Yes, some of the outside towers are gone, but what a lot of other old stuff was saved. Gorgeous.
It was hot and sunny up until this afternoon. Then it turned rainy and windy. Fortunately, I overpacked.

The other confusing thing is that we’re staying in the Hotel Argentina tonight. Thought that was on a whole different continent. Hmmm. It’s beautiful, but no Internet access. So I can’t really recommend it.

Editorial comment: I didn't overpack. It got a little chilly in places and I used all the clothes I brought. I had forgotten how much we wanted to get on the boat . . . now we're very happy to be off of it. It was a little uncomfortable.

Hvar. (September 16.)

Today – Tuesday? – we were in Hvar, the town, on the island of Hvar. I’d like to come back here some day. Even found a hotel . . . the Villa Nora. Sweet!


The town was wonderfully picturesque. We walked up and down the old town. It’s a Venetian era city. That’s kind of interesting because this area used to be known as Illyrium . . . and it was where Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night takes place. We saw Twelfth Night this summer in Seattle with our friends Todd and Linda. I didn’t even know Seattle had a free Shakespeare in the park tradition. But it does. And we finally took advantage.

We spent the afternoon sailing/motoring to Sibonek. I love looking at the sea and scenery as it passes, so I was out on deck for many hours. It was great. It did get kind of chilly once the sun started going down.

Editorial comment: Those Illyrians were everywhere! Why haven't I heard of them? They sound like lovely, peaceful people. I'm embarrassed by my ignorance. Also . . . Hvar is my favorite. I'm going back.

One medieval town after another. (September 20.)

I haven’t been keeping up with this journal . . . so my memories are a bit faded already. Last time I wrote was about Hvar – which I still think is my favorite so far. But we also visited Sibonek and Dubrovnik after that. Dubrovnik is especially appealing at night, when the crowds die down a bit and the whole town is lit up.

Today we’re in Kotor, Montenegro – our first time out of Croatia except for a few kilometers of Bosnia along the road. I’m going to say that Ross and I summitted Montenegro from now on, because we climbed up to the ruined fortress. It must be a mile up. It took an hour to climb. They say there are 1400 steps. It took 45 minutes to get down. It was harder to climb, but scarier coming down. My knees may never forgive me. Thank goodness it wasn’t an overly hot day.

We’ve been doing a lot of fortress climbing. Yesterday we walked around the top of the walls of Dubrovnik. That involved plenty of steps. I believe it’s close to two kilometers of walking. We also canoed in Krka National Park earlier in the week. So this is a much more physically challenging vacation than most cruises we’ve gone on. I’m hoping it means I won’t go home five pounds heavier. But I’ve also been eating a lot of French fries, so I’m not holding my breath.

Editorial comment: I'm still eating the French fries -- and the climbing part of the trip is officially over. Although we did get to the top of the Acropolis today.

Ithaka. (September 23.)

We’re on the Greek island of Ithaka today. Not too many remnants of Odysseus around – but they talk about him a lot. I didn’t realize that many Greek islands around here (Ionian?) were devastated by a 1953 earthquake. So there isn’t much old around here.

For the past two days we’ve been in Albania. It’s pretty sad there. The whole country is hoping to win the lottery. The most memorable thing about Albania is the garbage. They seem to just throw their trash out the window. The second most memorable thing is that they want to become a tourist destination. So they’re building a kajillion hotels—and they’re all empty or in the middle of construction. We kept saying to each other, “Pick up the garbage first, then invite people to come!”
Ross and I did a little kayaking yesterday. In Albania. Huh.

Up to the present. (Now.)

So yesterday we went to Delphi and saw the navel of the world. (Ross noted that the world has an outie.) Climbed to the top there, too.

Then we cruised through the Corinthian canal which was finished in the late 1800s. Before that, they'd unload everything from the boats and cart the boats across the isthmus. I feel like I learned about that in Latin class. Or maybe in Sunday School.

This morning, we landed in Athens and today we "did" the Acropolis, visited the Plaka (old town) and just hung out at the hotel all afternoon. Tomorrow we leave the hotel at 3 a.m. to catch a plane to Frankfurt.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Let's Split!


It feels like we’ve been gone for weeks. We left on Wednesday for Croatia. Stopped in Chicago and Frankfurt. Met up with our friends there and then flew to Split. Slept on the plane . . . so showered and went to dinner when we landed.
The next day we went out to see Diocletian’s palace for a couple of hours on our own. That’s not quite as strange as it sounds, because the palace is really downtown Split. Met the rest of the boat people who came in early and had dinner at the hotel.
This morning we took a 15-minute bus ride to an archeological site – the city of Salona, where we saw a lot of Roman era mausoleums and walls. This afternoon we had the tour of Diocletian’s palace.
Okay . . . now that I’m done with the itinerary, I can move on. If I don’t get that down in writing immediately, I forget everything.
Split is an industrial town, but we’re staying by the beach and we’re only a 15-minute walk from downtown (which is built into the 1700-year-old palace walls). The hotel and beach, complete with gorgeous palm trees, plus the heat and humidity, make me feel like I’m in a tropical paradise. The downtown, with all the high-end boutiques built into the ancient walls make me feel like I’m in Siena. They’re trying to make Split into a tourist destination – and it’s working for me. A lot of the rest of the area is kind of Soviet looking . . . but if you could live and work in Diocletian’s Palace, I think it’d be a cool place to live.
We’ve done our share of walking today. I brought only two pairs of shoes and one of them started giving me blisters yesterday – so I’m glad the other pair worked for me today.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Under water.

Today was the first day of the first-ever Annual Seattle Dragon Boat Festival. My team managed to come in first in our first race. After that . . . it's hard telling how well we did because it's all about the time you make, not your place at the finish line. We raced in two 200-hundred-meter races and one 500-meter.

Then there was the 1,000-meter race. It wasn't a "real" race. It was billed as an exhibition race. While there were 21 teams, only 12 would be in the 1,000-meter race. Our team was one of the twelve. Ouch. Who wants to paddle for -- I don't know -- 5 or 6 minutes if you're really good and 7 if you're not so much?

Our team found a clever way not to paddle for the full thousand meters. Overturn the boat at about 200 meters! Wow, we're smart.

Now, I'm not a swimmer. I hope I didn't panic a whole lot (although I know I panicked a little). My PFD (personal floatation device, the thing formerly known as a "life preserver") did its job and kept my head above water. Oh, I went all the way under, I'll have you know. But getting to the surface was no problem. Getting to the boat and hanging onto my paddle made a lot of sense -- and I did that without much thinking. There were rescue boats close by. I knew that and it helped. I lost a shoe . . . but it floated (!) and someone rescued it. Since I was a known non-swimmer, I got to be the second one into the rescue boat. And it was a nice warm day and the water was fine.

Also, I had brought a change of clothes.

So, other than the inconvenience and embarrassment, it was probably easier than actually paddling my heart out for six or seven minutes.

How'd it happen? We got hit by a wave. If this had been a practice, we probably wouldn't have been oriented in a direction where a wave would broadside us. We'd angle into the waves or maybe go into them head on. I know for a fact we've practiced in much rougher water and didn't have even a close call.

We have at least three more races tomorrow. Call me crazy, but I'll be there!

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Happy birthday, Daddy!


Today is my dad's 96th birthday. He told me all my life that my job was to keep him young in his old age. I have been claiming success for a long time now, and this year is no exception. I’m very proud of my accomplishment!

Today is also the day my dad is saying goodbye to his sister, Ethel. Her funeral is this afternoon. She was 93 years old.

My very earliest memory involves my Aunt Ethel. Here’s how I “remember” it – and if anyone else has a clearer memory of the occasion, chime right in.

We were at my Grandma and Grandpa Hansen’s house, in the living room. My “toy” was going to be Aunt Ethel’s purse. (I was an explorer back then. Had to rummage through everything. Famous for overturning wastebaskets. My dog-faced children take after me.) I was a toddler – meaning, not so steady on my feet. Aunt Ethel’s purse outbalanced me and I sat down flat on my butt. Everyone looked at me, probably to see if I’d cry – and instead I came out with my mother’s favorite expression, “Oh happy day!” They all laughed. I was delighted.

A star is born.

So, here we are. Instead of this post being about Daddy, it’s all about me.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Books and food.

I like reading about food almost as much as I like eating. I’ve been talking about a book I finished last week to just about anyone who’ll listen, so I thought I’d recommend it here.

It’s Heat by Bill Buford, a memoir from a guy in his forties who’s been writing for the New Yorker and decides to learn how to cook by apprenticing himself to a famous New York chef (who’s originally from Seattle, by the way). The subtitle is An Amateur's Adventures as Kitchen Slave, Line Cook, Pasta-Maker, and Apprentice to a Dante-Quoting Butcher in Tuscany.

I read books by listening to them – so this one will forever remind me of learning how to ride the bus in Seattle, my new way of commuting. The author has a wonderful, self-deprecating sense of humor that tickled me. I tried hard not to laugh out loud while riding public transportation. He writes like he’s a joke, but he must have taken this very seriously, because he was taken very seriously by the people around him. (Apparently, once you cut up a carrot or chop an onion a thousand times, you get pretty good at it.) He ends up going to Italy several times to get more training – including training as a butcher, which seems like it may be going a little too far, if you ask me.

So if you like cooking, eating, reading and laughing, I can recommend this book. Especially the audio version thereof.

Have you read any good books lately?

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Agreement signed.

The realtor just left and we have signed some kind of pre-agreement. So we really are seriously going to sell.

Yikes!

The adventure ahead is just so enticing that I can't be sad for the things we'll be leaving behind. But the people we'll miss is a whole different story. Which is why we're making plans for how we'll come back to Seattle and the rest of the country on a regular basis.

My daydreaming is now about the RV as much as it is about Casa Gecko. I hope that's not a sign that I'm never satisfied . . .

Monday, September 1, 2008

Cookies!


Ross worked very hard today . . . he cut down a tree in our front yard and cleaned up all the dead plants up on our roof deck.

I made dog cookies.

He and I also brought five big bags of stuff to Goodwill. I must be 200 pounds lighter.

Nephew Rick expressed skepticism about us fitting our Seattle house into a motor home. And all I want to say is . . . but you should see my closet!

I understand the question, though. One answer is that we both have electronic books. Plus, we had a LOT of bookshelves put into Casa Gecko. So whatever books we don't give away, we'll bring south and leave there. The piano (and piano books) will go to Mexico, too. Furniture will be sold or given away. Except desks and the futon will be moved to Mexico. Oh, and the big TV and the DVDs go to Mexico.

Yup. That's going to be one big moving van, isn't it?

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Downsizing

We've talked to a realtor. So I guess this means we're serious. And we're seriously considering getting a motor home.

Huh?

Maybe this is our way of tapering off from having two houses. We'll have one in Mexico and one on wheels.

Couple of reasons. One, we had a great time on our road trips to Mexico and back. The dogs seemed to have as much fun as we did -- and we didn't have to worry about them being left behind, wondering where we were. Two, we're going to want to come back to the States a lot. We talked about renting apartments for a month or two at a time -- but then you have to plan way ahead and find one that will take dogs. This way we'll be able to be much more flexible.

Last weekend we went to the RV show and looked through dozens of motor homes. I talked Ross into considering a bigger one than he was thinking about. It wasn't that much more expensive, and it has a lot more to offer. We won't be able to buy it until we sell this house because we don't want to go into debt -- so that gives us a few more months to think about it.

I finally finished unpacking. I had packed nearly everything I have (clothes and bathroom things) in boxes so Todd and Linda wouldn't have to work around my stuff. I've been living on what we brought back from Mexico for the last month. While I unpacked, I took the opportunity to throw things away and set clothes aside for Goodwill. I have two large Hefty bags ready to go.

I see that Ross has a large box of books to get rid of, too.

It looks like 2009 will be a very different year for us!

Monday, August 25, 2008

Celebrate Life!


I took this picture at Saturday's Celebrate Life! Dragon Boat Festival. (By the way, did you know you can click on these photos to make them bigger?) Ross and I paddled in three races with the Steele Dragons. It was a gorgeous day. And our team barely came in second to last in our division. Oh well!

I was so sure we'd do great this year, since I spent all winter practicing and I was so obviously the worst paddler last year. But -- surprise! -- I guess it's not all about me after all! Go figure.

The cool thing is that Ross has decided to try going out with my regular team, Vintage Sake.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Summer's over.

Yup. Those three nice weeks of Seattle summer have come to an end. I was out on the water tonight with the Steele Dragons (Anita's volunteer team for the Celebrate Life! Festival) -- and it was cold and dark and threatening to drizzle. But it was good to paddle. (The photo is from Flickr -- not mine.)

Ross left today for Sacramento. He's back on Wednesday. Maybe that accounts for the dreariness.

Da boyz managed on their own till I got home at 8:15.

I haven't been keeping up with this blog because work has been cRAzY! I'm so far behind I can't imagine catching up. It's clear that out of sight is out of mind. Now that they can see me, I'm late with all the projects they have for me. The best thing for me now is to go to bed and rest up, because tomorrow is another wacky day.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Recipes to die for.

Read this in The Week, one of my two favorite magazines, for August 15:

British celebrity chef Antony Worrall Thompson said in a magazine article that “the weed henbane is great in salads.” Thompson later said he had confused henbane with a different plant that does not cause convulsions, vomiting, and death.
Think what he really wanted in his salad was rue?

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Summer fun.


There's nothing better than the three weeks of summer we get here in Seattle. It was a perfect day today. Highs were in the mid-80s, but you could always catch a breeze. I had that lunch with a coworker that I mentioned yesterday . . . and we sat outdoors.

Tonight I went to my first dragon boat practice in three months. It is an exercise in public humiliation for me. But it feels so good when I stop. The "endolphins" are what make me do it.

Plus, it's a cheap way to get out on the water on a beautiful day!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Ya load sixteen tons and whaddya get?

This working thing cuts right through the middle of your day.

I'm exhausted! No siesta today.

I have to admit that it's fun to get to go to a new work space. And I like the idea of working downtown, but I haven't had a chance to get out at all. It's energizing to be in a different place. Still just settling in. Tomorrow I'm going out to lunch with a coworker, so that will feel a little more like I'm actually in Seattle. Do you know that I haven't even looked at my car yet? Ross says he saw it in the driveway, so I know it's here somewhere.

Ross got a lot of unpacking done. I haven't been at all productive at home. I'm just hoping I have enough work clothes available to make it through the week.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Back to school.


Today was like freshman year of high school. I'm in a new school . . . and I only know half my classmates. (Where's my homeroom? Is this French 101?) Plus, I took the bus. At least in high school, you know the stop where you should get off. And you don't have to ask how to pay.

I could at least tell I had been missed. I started meetings at around 9:30 and by noon had more work than I could possibly get done by the deadlines.

"Welcome back. You're late."

I'm pretty sure I'm going to have dreams about going to my final exams and realizing I hadn't attended class the whole semester.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Sea level.

We made it back! We arrived around 4:30 p.m.

Today we started in Montana, cut through the panhandle of Idaho and took the long tour of the great state of Washington. We saw lots of wonderful scenery. I think Western Washington is the prettiest part of the world. In August. In the sunshine.

The house looks lighter and brighter than I remember it. Possibly it's that August sunshine effect. Or maybe it's that some our stuff is still hidden in closets. Todd and Linda took great care of the place. My mail was even sorted! It took me 15 minutes to look through it. Normally, after being gone a couple of weeks, it takes three days. What a wonderful thing.

The dogs are resting between bouts of sniffing everything. I can imagine them thinking, "This place looks familiar, but it sure smells different. Is that cat?!?"

I'm doing a little laundry so I'll have something appropriate to wear to work tomorrow. Hmmm. Real clothes, not stretchy yoga pants. Real shoes, not flip-flops. Makeup.

Now I remember why I want to work at home.

I'll be seeing most of the folks who read this blog in real life soon -- so I don't know if I'll keep writing. If I do, I won't be hurt if you don't want to check in on it anymore. As long as we continue to check in with each other, I'm fine with that.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Maybe more than a mile high.

This was the fastest, easiest day yet. We're in Bozeman. It's probably a very nice city. It's a university town, isn't it? But we're at a Best Western just off the freeway . . . so we don't know. That's okay. Just happy to be here.

We took I-25 to I-90 . . . so we really must be on the home stretch. I-90 starts (or ends?) in Seattle. We saw the beginning of I-94 during the drive today. I'm sentimental. I waved to it.

Wyoming, from I-25 anyway, is more interesting than, say, Kansas . . . but stick it between Colorado and Montana and it suffers by comparison. Most of it looks completely uninhabited. I always heard that Montana had the lowest population density of any state -- but, along our route, it's got farmland anyway. Wyoming had not much.

What was very fun were (was?) the silhouettes. In Mexico, there's a (relatively) common billboard that's a cutout of an ENORMOUS bull. You see it at the top of a hill from miles away and think . . . whoa! That's big. In Wyoming, we saw a buffalo. (Um-hmmmm.) Then a cowboy on a horse. (Huh!) Then the Indian on a horse. (Awww.) Then a jackalope. (Hahahhaha!) Then a triceratops. (HAH!) A state with very few people and a big sense of humor.

Okay. I'm done with parentheses for this post.

Tomorrow, we'll be home!

Friday, August 1, 2008

Mile high.

We're in a Sheraton in Denver now. We started a little late. We drove north from Las Cruces through Albuquerque (ugly) to Santa Fe (looks kinda new) and then took a detour up through Taos. Neither of us had been there. What a pretty drive. Pretty town, too. You have to really like beige. Okay, that was sarcastic Carolyn. Down, girl.

The Sheraton is probably nicer than last night's hotel . . . but it's HUGE. The hotel last night felt a little homier. And, of course, we got to know the waiter guy quite well. The woman who brought room service tonight was very nice as well -- but she didn't come to our room three times because our power was out. She used to have a dog. A boxer.

The dogs were great again today. It's amazing how riding in the truck all day wears them out as much as it does us.

So far we've been through nine states . . . Colorado, New Mexico, a tiny corner of Texas, Chihuahua, Aguascalientes, Jalisco, Zacatecas, Durango and Zaragoza -- not necessarily in that order. I've never been to Wyoming or Montana. That's tomorrow.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Back in the USA.

We are now in the Best Western in Las Cruces, New Mexico. Watching Burn Notice on the USA Network. Funny thing. We have Canadian satellite TV in Mexico . . . and Canadian satellite TV doesn't have USA Network.

We got an even later start this morning -- and got a little lost getting out of Torreon. We didn't arrive here until 6:30. Except we got an hour back because we're now on Mountain Time. It was really 5:30. Yay!

We barely stopped on the way, so there's not a lot to say about the drive. We moved into desert. We drove through Chihuahua.

It took about an hour to get through the line in customs -- but once we hit the front of the line, we got though in a minute.

Our hotel is only about 45 minutes from the border. They have a restaurant attached (Tres Amigos) and the hotel is dog friendly . . . so, who could resist? They're really, really dog friendly. I already don't like the barky little dogs next door. I'm not complaining. Honest!

We were here about a minute and it started pouring. We were here about 20 minutes and heard thunder. After 30 minutes, we lost power. But at least they have windows that open, or we'd cook. Ross had to go to the restaurant to order dinner, because the phone didn't work. The poor waiter guy had to come here twice for clarification, because the phone didn't work. About a minute after he brought our salads, the power came back. Yay.

Da boyz are SO good at traveling. And sitting in a truck all day seems to make them as tired as it does us.

Tomorrow, Denver.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

On the road.

We got to the Torreon Marriott in record time -- about two and a half hours sooner than Streets and Trips said it would take. They didn't know about the new toll road.

We started out just 15 minutes later than intended -- 6:15.

We went past (but not exactly "through") Zapotlanejo, Racine's sister city,right after leaving Guadalajara.

So far, the scenery is even more beautiful than when we came down.

We went through a city, Aguascalientes, that was much more modern than the cities we're used to. And all the countryside is very clean -- no trash.

The toll roads are amazing. You can go very, very fast. There aren't that many other people on them.

Ross made us breakfast and lunch. Egg salad sandwiches. (We had a lot of eggs left yesterday.) At lunch time, he just pulled over to the side of the road and got the stuff out of the cooler and started making sandwiches. The Green Angels stopped to see if we were okay. So they're not a myth.

The Marriott is beautiful. A little hard to find. It's also expensive. It was the only hotel in town that said they'd take dogs. So I guess it's reasonable when you divide the bill by four.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Packing.

Packing up for the return trip is a lot easier than packing for the stay here. We're leaving a ton of stuff. I'm bring back some clothes that I never wore because it was too hot for them here. I keep thinking . . . should I just leave them? But I may need them in Seattle. I guess. And we're driving, so no one will charge me $15 for my extra bag.

We'll be taking off early-early tomorrow. I hope I get a connection tomorrow night. We're staying at a Marriott (I think) in Torreone.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Restaurant Number 4.

We have a very trendy new restaurant in town.

That means we all have something new to talk about! Whoohoo!

Seriously, since most of the English-speakers here are Canadian, we've had more conversations about Restaurant Number 4 than about Barack Obama.

Like every other restaurant here, it's indoor/outdoor. Other than that, you could see it thriving in New York or San Francisco. (Oh, if only those cities had better weather!) It's really gorgeous. The piano bar provides elegant, live background music. The linens are linen, not paper. The avocado tree in the courtyard is dripping with fruit. The booths in the back are lined in velvet.

What's more, the food is fantastic. It's elegant Italian. Very yummy. And I dare you to get a better filet mignon anywhere.

No one has a problem with any of this.

The conversations are about the prices. They are higher than anywhere else in Ajijic. Shocking! They're not New York prices, or even Seattle prices. But some vocal people have a problem with paying $10 for a plate of pasta. Even if it is handmade pasta with prawns the size of your fist. Served by a very well-trained waitstaff. (It seems like you get two waiters per customer.)

Anyway . . . it's kind of amusing how seriously these folks take this. I guess it's upsetting to have a restaurant in town that you feel you can't afford. But does that mean the restaurant should lower its prices for you? If the prices are too high for everyone, they'll go out of business. No need to take it personally. But some people are furious!

In the meantime, it seems like there are plenty of people going there and enjoying it.

The trendy part: It has a unisex bathroom. I haven't run into this in Seattle. Only on Ally McBeal. I was washing my hands and a guy walked in . . . looked at me . . . looked confused . . . I had to say, "Yes, you're in the right place."

Friday, July 25, 2008

Brownout.


I didn't take this picture. (Like you might have thought I did! Ha!) I found it on Flickr. It was taken in Cypress in 2006, but it looks a lot like what happened here last night. I didn't know light could hurt your eyes when you had them closed! I could still count to five before the thunder, but the noise was almost painful as well.

We didn't completely lose power . . . but what happened was odd. When we got up, half the outlets had no electricity, the other half were on half power. For some things that might as well be none. It all came back an hour ago -- before I had to start worrying about the stuff in the fridge.

I know the whole thing made Ross very unhappy because he's cooking for several guests tonight. The stove and oven are gas (propane, actually), but he has a lot of power tools in the kitchen, not just his workshop.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Being green.


I don't normally talk about work on this blog . . . but today we got an article in The New York Times! This is a big deal for us. It's about the Green Marketing Coalition we started. I've been getting some phone calls and emails. Not an overwhelming amount. But still.

Before I give you the link to it, I have to warn you that they mock us a little. Direct mail and the environment don't go together in people's minds. This just shows we're trying to do our part and lots of others aren't. So there.

The dogs think it's pretty cool.

Anyway, here it is.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Los Restaurantes

I've been doing a little math in my head. Yes, Randy, I'm probably going to need your help again.

They tell me about 2,000 to 3,000 gringos live here in Ajijic/Chapala. And I know for a fact we have close to 100 restaurants that cater to Norte Americanos.

Ask me how I know this. Please.

Well, it's because they list them all at AjijicCityGuide.com -- your source for everything that's happening here. Except the weather. I gave you that link already. And I, being a complete geek, have created my own (updated) Excel spreadsheet, complete with hours of operation. So this morning, when Ross asks, "What's open for breakfast on Sunday?" I can answer.

Soooooooo anyway. This morning, breakfast for the two of us (including coffee) cost $6 at Restaurant Jardin Plaza -- a nice, very popular place, right on the square. I feel kinda cheap leaving only a $2 tip, but what do you do?

So how do these 100 -- give or take -- restaurants make it? Say the average couple eats out ten times a week. That's 20 meals. Say the average meal is $10. That's $200 per week per couple -- or $100 per week per person. If there are 3,000 people spending $100 a week, that's $300,000 a week. I think that averages out to about $150,000/year per restaurant, gross. Now take out the cost of the food, rent and labor . . . and how in the world does that pencil?

They must make it up on the drinks. When coffee isn't already included, of course.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Roomba.

One thing about a house with tile floors . . . when it needs cleaning you should be able to just hose it down.

Yesterday, as I was getting all my ingredients together for the dogs' dinner, the oatmeal container went flying. I'm lazy and didn't want to sweep it up. So I went to the closet for the vacuum cleaner.

By the time I returned, both dogs were cleaning up for me!

Now I'm going to start calling Bob "Hoover" and Slick "Roomba."

Monday, July 14, 2008

Another vet visit.


We brought Slick to another vet this morning. He had a rough weekend. He got a cortisone shot today -- so we're hoping that fixes things. The vet thinks it's just a muscle spasm, not a spine problem. I'd kind of like to see an x-ray -- but Dr. Aguilar says it's not necessary.

Both of da boyz have lost weight on my meatloaf diet. I measure it out quite strictly. They needed to lose a couple of pounds, but now I think it's time for "maintenance" as they say in Weight Watchers. That means . . . more cookies!

Ross is starting to work on the plans for our trip back. Can you believe it? Just three more weeks. We'll be taking a different route north than the one we came down on -- and taking a little longer, too.

We also have to figure out what to do with Casa Gecko while we're gone. We don't really want to rent it out. Too bad there's no one we know here who temporarily needs a place to stay while they're looking for a permanent place. (But I guess that's unrealistic.) We're going to talk to a management company that will pay our bills. And maybe we'll need to come back a couple times to see how it's going here.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Nancy Who?

It isn't a mystery that I loved Nancy Drew as a kid.

My sister, Nita, and I were just talking about White's Bookstore, where much of my collection was bought. I remember the great consternation when the price of a hardcover Nancy Drew (the yellow spines) went from $1 to $1.25. Talk about inflation!

Last year they came out with a Nancy Drew movie. It took me until today to see it because (naturally) I waited till it came out on video. (You've heard me rant about U.S. movie theaters enough already.)

It was a cute movie, but it wasn't Nancy Drew. Neither was the TV series I watched when I was a teenager. This Nancy was an obsessive-compulsive smarty-pants who couldn't make friends at her new school.

In the book, Nancy was excellent in everything she attempted -- ballet, acting, playing the bagpipes, whatever -- but not obnoxious, and she never, ever went to school. Oh, she had her detractors. Occasionally, other girls might be jealous -- but they always turned out to be bad guys. Most people thought Nancy was pretty swell and they wanted to be her friend.

Did anyone else see this movie? Didja like it?

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Lupita's chicken.

Everyone (well, nearly everyone) tells you not to be too adventurous about food in Mexico. Having gotten turista a few times my own self, I understand the sentiment. But what's the point of being in Mexico if you're going to eat like an American?

Eating Lupita's is not exactly daring in these parts. Her roasted chicken is highly recommended by the Canadians and Americans we've met. Plus, everyone standing in line in front of us today was clearly Mexicano.

But you wouldn't see this process in the states. The roaster is outdoors. The sauce container is a plastic garbage can. The end of the big rotisserie skewer is resting on the dirty concrete as chickens are being pinned on them, just about three feet away from us.

It cost about $7 for a chicken, which I think is more than you pay for a roasted chicken at Costco nowadays -- but I'm guessing this one didn't have salt water injected into it. Plus, for some reason, we got a chicken and a half. A sale, maybe?

This photo is a little blurry, but I was trying to be sly and look a little less like a tourist, so I shot from the hip (literally) and didn't focus.

By the way, the chicken was as good as I'd hoped.

Next week, I promise I'm going to try the roasted corn from the woman who shows up around 3 p.m. at the end of our block.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

The rainy season.


If you've listened to me brag about living in Mexico for more than, oh, half a minute, you've heard me talk about how the weather is always beautiful and spring-like.

In the past two months, we've experienced many, many more seasons than just spring. I don't feel bad about this. After all, this is why we came down here before rashly selling our home in Seattle. We needed to see what it was really like here.

When we arrived, we quickly learned it was palmetto bug season. Palmetto bugs look like overgrown cockroaches. Like cockroaches, they're a little horrifying and they move really, really fast. They respond best to a great big stomp of the shoe -- which was nice, because by the time we got the big cans of Raid, palmetto bug season was over.

Next came dust season. The Spanish word for dust is "polvo." This is a handy word to know if you're going to communicate with your housekeeper. It also helps at the grocery store. "Polvo de horno" . . . dust of the oven . . . baking powder!

Then we had construction season. This is like a plague of locusts, only it's a lot of workers crawling all over your house, creating lots and lots of polvo. Yes, these two seasons generally overlap.

Just on the heels of construction, we had mosquito/bobo season. Bobos are harmless, but annoying, mosquito lookalikes. We saw billions of them. We knew a couple of them were actually mosquitoes, because we got the bites to prove it. Fortunately, mosquito season seems to last about as long as palmetto bug season.

Thunderstorm season came next. John and Anita were here for this one. Very, very loud and dramatic. I thought it would continue for our entire time here -- but it seems to be over. (Unless I'm sleeping through them.)

Housefly season came upon us and lasted long enough for us to buy flyswatters. Between us, Ross and I killed seven or eight flies in one afternoon. Now they seem to be gone.

We're now about a week into the rainy season. We're having an unusual one. The average rainfall for July is nine inches. As of today, the 10th, we've had 8.59 inches. We've had 2.08 inches in the last 24 hours. Ross went out this morning and said the streets were like rivers. Yesterday he went upstairs to the studio and one of the drains was plugged and we had several inches sitting up there. He immediately dubbed it Lake Mirador. Fortunately, nothing leaked into the house.

It's now been raining long enough for me to learn the Spanish word for it: lluvia. Our cute little Lake Chapala Weather website is now saying: "Stop the lluvia -- no mas, por favor."

What could possibly be next? I'm quite sure there's no fire season here . . . unless one of the volcanoes erupts.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Thar be dragons.

I promised Brother-in-Law Ted's dragon boat photos when I got them -- and they turned out great! Isn't this a colorful float? Doesn't it make you want to get out on the water and paddle?

I know if this were the Vintage Sake team in the parade, they'd be air-paddling. Dena would be coaching us from the front. (I'd be frantically hiding from her in the back.)

If this sounds tempting to you (not the hiding . . . the paddling!), and you'll be in Seattle in August, you can join Anita's team, the Steele Dragons for the Celebrate Life Festival.

Or, if you're in Racine this week, you could check out the Great Midwest Dragon Boat Festival! According to their website, it was voted the #1 event in Racine County! (Better than last week's parade? Wow.)

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Rules of the road.


I was talking to my family this weekend about driving in Mexico and realized it's a bit different from what we're used to in the US of A. Let me 'splain you.

In El Norte, driving is an individual sport. He who ends up in the front of the line, wins.

In Mexico, driving is a team sport. Let's all keep moving the best we can. If it means some people will be driving on the shoulder, so be it. Avoid hitting each other. If everyone makes it to our respective destinations in one piece, we all win.

This distinction -- team vs. individual -- gives us the most confusing aspect of Mexican driving for the Norte Americano/a: the use of signals.

In the U.S. (except Texas), we "signal our intentions." In an individual sport, however, signals give too much information to the enemy -- so Texans don't use them.

In Mexico, we use signals to tell others what they can safely do.

That means, what Americans would call a "left turn signal" means "it's now safe to pass me on the left." If it actually meant I was going to turn, I'd already be in the left-hand lane. (Yes, I'd be driving in the lane with all the cars coming toward us.)

If I've gotten bad information from the driver in front of me and I'm passing -- but you're hurtling toward me at 90 kph -- you are expected to head for the shoulder so that I can safely pass the slowpoke.

What Americans call "hazard lights" are also used differently here, i.e., defensively. In the U.S., you turn those on when you're parked someplace unexpected and potentially dangerous. You've had a flat and you're on the side of a two-lane highway, for example.

In Mexico, hazard lights are more of an offensive tool, used while driving. It means, "I'm coming up on something going very slow, or stopped. Don't you rear-end me! I'm signalling you -- so it'll be your fault if you do!"

An arm waving out the drivers' side window usually means much the same thing.

Many rules of the road are considered suggestions here.

Speed limits? Just don't get caught.

Passing on the right? No problema.

Stop sign? Slow down and proceed with caution.

So far, I like the more relaxed approach here in Mexico. It seems to keep everyone moving with a lot less tension. But, philosophically, it may be too fatalistic. Probably a little of both styles would work best in the long run.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Walk this way.


Went for a walk today. That was one of the things I meant to do every day once I got down here -- and this is probably the fourth or fifth time I've done it. Take a look at that gorgeous photo. The Lake Chapala area is a beautiful place to walk.

Except today.

I took that picture several weeks ago. Today it was overcast and threatening and very hot and extremely humid. I tend to brag about the weather here, but today was nothing to brag about. It was the worst of all possible summer weather scenarios.

I feel a little guilty walking without the boys -- they love it so much and I hate walking with them. They just make it so hard when we meet other dogs. Maybe I can find a time when all smart dogs are taking a siesta.

I only have about four more weeks here. Let's see if I can pick up the pace.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

4th of July Parade

According to USA Today, the second biggest 4th of July parade is in Racine, Wisconsin. (The biggest is in Washington, D.C.) I don't remember how long it's been since I've gone. But this year, my sisters and I made it. My sister, Elaine, had a friend save us a prime section of sidewalk along the route. It was great! Many parts of it were exactly as I remember. The differences:

1. I don't remember anyone drinking beer at 8 a.m.
2. No one was selling helium balloons.
3. No one was selling ice cream bars.

One of the cool parts of the parade for us was the section from Zapotlanejo, Racine's new sister city -- that happens to be in Jalisco state, near Guadalajara.

Another highlight was the Dragon Boat Team float -- but my camera battery had died by then, so I don't have a photo yet. (Brother-in-law Ted is going to send me one.)

After the parade, we had burgers at my brother's house. When it got dark, my sister, Anita, and I braved the world famous Wisconsin mosquitoes and went to the lakefront to watch the fireworks. Not quite a spectacular a production as watching the Seattle show from John's penthouse deck, but very nice . . . and the getaway was a lot faster.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Chestertonian Twins

Great photo from the American Chesterton Society Conference. They linked to my blog, so now I'm returning the favor! (Just click on the title of this post to go there.)

Foreign movies.


We went to the movies again last night. We saw Hulk: El Hombre Increible.

Just like Indiana Jones, this one was in English and subtitled in Spanish. Except for when The Hulk was in Brazil and it was in Portuguese, subtitled in Spanish. Or when he moved up to Guatemala and Chiapas, when it was in Spanish with no subtitles at all.

Who knew you needed to be such a linguistic master to watch such a silly movie. (I think we got the idea without knowing exactly what was said.)

After the movie, we stumbled into karaoke night at one of our neighborhood restaurants. I will leave you with the line that is still running in my head this morning, from the last song we heard, because it's exactly how I feel about you: "You are so beeeYOOOOOOOOOOOOteeful, and I have loved you dearly. More dearly than the spoken word can tell."

Monday, June 30, 2008

No (r)egrets.


We have a lot of strange wildlife around here. If you look up Lake Chapala in Wikipedia, you're told this is a critical habitat for migratory birds, such as White Pelicans. I've never seen a pelican here -- but maybe this is just a quick stop on a long migration and I've missed it.

What we have are egrets.

Egrets are lovely. They look quite elegant standing alone, ankle deep in water -- or in graceful flight.

They're a bit like the silent movie stars who had voices like nails scratching a blackboard. Once you hear them, they never really look the same.

Ross asked Chuy what they were, and he said the locals call them "dog birds." And I don't think he meant "dog" in a good way. They're big. They end up sitting together in one large tree in a neighborhood and talking. All. The. Time.

The photo here is too small to see them clearly -- but that's definitely their neighborhood tree, as seen from our terrace. I'm sure it's quite a mess below it. (If you're really, really interested, you can click on the photo to enlarge it.)

We call them the Jub-Jub Birds. The basic philosophy of the Jub-Jub is: "Jub. Jub. Jub. Jub. Jub. Jub. Jub. Jub. Jub. Jub. Jub. Jub. Jub. Jub. Jub. Jub. Jub. Jub. Jub. Jub. Jub. Jub. Jub. Jub. Jub. Jub. Jub. Jub. Jub. Jub. Jub."

It's a tonal language. As long as the tone sounds off-key and irritating, you're doing it right.

Conversations are long and wearisome. They tend to have cocktail parties long into the night. (You may recall an early post of mine describing a bird that was telling the same knock-knock joke all night. That was written before I had learned the subtleties of the Jub-Jub language. She'd actually been telling the same joke for weeks.)

Every fifteen minutes or so, someone at the party starts moving the conversation on a little too quickly. Many of his fellows become indignant. Some of them haven't quite gotten the earlier point and would have liked a little more explanation. Things become tense. Then the screaming starts. At first, silly me, I thought it was a whole different kind of a fight. I thought it was cats. But it's too loud and violent -- and lasts too long -- for a mere cat fight. When they're only slightly offended, it sounds like a cat with a terrible hairball.

Which makes you wonder why they're called dog birds.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

The last visitors.



I'm back! Our friends John and Anita have been here for the past week . . . so I've been busy. We had a wonderful time with them and being with them reminds us of what we miss about Seattle.

You should have seen da boyz when John and Anita arrived! They wagged and wiggled so hard, they practically turned themselves inside out. Now we know they haven't forgotten any of you.

We had some fun adventures. We went to Chapala for lunch one day and then continued east along the lake to a town called Mezcala. We kept going on some pretty rough road but found the highway and a smooth ride home.

We visited the town of Tequila again -- this time we took the VIP tour of Jose Cuervo and saw more of the grounds there. Pretty amazingly gorgeous. Reminded me of the grounds of some palaces we've seen in Europe.

We also ate at a few really terrific restaurants we have around here. Plus, I cooked one night. And Ross cooked another night. Something got to John for a day -- very likely my dinner. I seem to have that happen to me every time we're down here, but it hasn't so far this time.

By the way, they're not really our last visitors. Just the last ones we're planning to see before going back to Seattle.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Guadalajara! Guadalajara!

This fuzzy picture is of our friends, Muriel and Gordon, from San Miguel de Allende taken at a restaurant featured in the most recent Gourmet magazine. Look at page 86, and you'll see it's the same location. Doesn't look very gourmet, does it? I'm sure it's muy authentico, however. (And extremely filling!)

The name of the restaurant is The Angry Sisters. The sign says they've been angry since 1956. I thought my sisters would appreciate that.

There are now three Angry Sister restaurants around Guadalajara -- and one is right next to the one we went to. Her sign seems to say that she's the truly angry one.

We also went to the big mercado in Guadalajara -- which we never get tired of going to. It's so enormous.

You can find plenty to eat there, too. One of the fondas is called El Vegetariano, but you'd never guess that by the menu: chicken filet, chicken steak (?), grilled beef, etc.

Gas.


I piqued more interest in Luz Azul Especial than in anything else with my last post!

Yesterday, when we got gas, it cost $7.17 pesos per liter for regular. According to the Internet exchange rate I looked up, that's $0.695677 in US dollars. According to another site, there are 3.785011355034065 liters to a gallon. (Why do these things go out to so many decimal points?)

Therefore, we're paying $2.633145344436033237005 per gallon. If I understand simple math. Which I'm not sure I do -- since this makes it look like we're paying a heck of a lot less than you all are.

I guess everything really is cheaper in Mexico!

Friday, June 20, 2008

Comings and goings.


This is our front gate. (And our beautiful Lumina minivan, named Luz Azul.) Our gate is always opening and closing. So many people in and out, it barely seems like our home.

We have half a dozen construction guys in and out of the gate, Monday through Saturday. In at 8:30 a.m. and out around 6:30 or so. Their base station is actually the garage. I'm really, really hoping they'll be done this weekend. They're at the quiet part of the job now . . . but we're still working around them. And we can't feel easy letting da boyz out in the yard while they're here because they could accidentally leave the gate open and the dogs would run out in the street.

Ana, the housekeeper, comes at 9 a.m., Monday through Friday.

Armando and Javier, the gardeners, come three times a week, Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.

Fernando the plumber/electrician has been here fairly regularly -- to repair everything Jesus the plumber/electrician did wrong. (Don't ask.)

Antonio the carpenter has been in and out, measuring for bookshelves.

Yesterday, a Telmex guy came by to replace the wiring to the house. Free. There was no warning, he just showed up at the gate. It was very efficient. He and his team were done in less than an hour, I'd guess.

We now have guests from San Miguel de Allende visiting -- and I'll bet they think we live in a madhouse. It's true, but I didn't want word to get out!

Monday, June 16, 2008

Ross speaks.


This is the best picture I got because Ross wouldn't let me use flash during his actual talk. My photos are terrible, but his talk was terrific! (This was taken while he was setting up.)
He gave a great talk at the American Chesterton Society annual conference about the Paradoxes of Christianity -- one of the chapters of Chesterton's book, Orthodoxy. When he sends it to me, I'll post the speech here. Sooner or later, you'll also be able to order the CD from the Society's web site.

It really was a wonderful conference and we got to catch up with some old friends. We also got to acquaint ourselves better with Helen and Peter Andersen -- a couple from our church, University Presbyterian, in Seattle. They attend Ross's Sunday School class and we knew they had come to the Chesterton conference in the past, but we'd not gotten to know them in our own town. Funny how that works. Also, being in St. Paul, we got to meet a lot of people from Wisconsin. In fact, the Midwest Chesterton Society used to hold the annual conference in Milwaukee for many years -- so there were a lot of people from that area.

There were people from Spain and someone from Norway -- so coming from Mexico wasn't that big a deal.

The dogs were well taken care of while we were gone. And they were ecstatic to see us return.



Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Slick's doctor visit.


The other morning we woke up when Slick screamed. He jumped off the bed and screamed again. He didn't seem able to really straighten out . . . and he couldn't sit. We brought him a baby aspirin in cream cheese. He managed to hobble downstairs.

We looked up vets in the phone book. Ross made a call. They opened at 9. We got everyone in their leashes and headed out.

By then, of course, he was fine.

The doctor spoke excellent English. We all think it was a nasty muscle spasm. But what could cause that in an active dog? He's not overweight -- as the beautiful picture above shows.

If it happens again, the vet suggested an x-ray, in case it's a disc issue.

By the way . . . we're on our way to Minnesota in the morning for Ross's talk at the Chesterton conference. Well, we'll probably take part in the rest of the conference as well. But he's the highlight. We'll be back on Sunday.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Dirty laundry.


This indoor/ outdoor living thing ain't all it's cracked up to be. Wellllll . . . maybe it is
-- but not when you're under construction during the rainy season.

Oy.

So, do you know about bungalows? We own a bungalow in Seattle, so I've looked it up. The word bungalow has its origins in India. A distinguishing feature of bungalows would be the eaves. Eaves are helpful in places that have monsoons. That's the kind of weather we've been having of an evening. Beautiful, clear days and thunderstormy nights.

The overhangs we used to have? They're being reconstructed in a more substantial, attractive style. But, for the moment, they're absent.

We had an absolute flood in the breezeway last night. Water flowed under the door, bringing in dirt and debris.

(I'm not actually complaining here. We didn't drown, like the people in the car in Wisconsin. And we don't even need to even clean it up, because Ana comes tomorrow. It's just one of those surprising things that happens in a different place.)


The other weird thing about indoor/outdoor living here is that our laundry room is outside. If you look at the first photo I've posted here, the washer and dryer are on the second floor, over to the left, by the scaffolding. Completely exposed to the elements.

So . . . the laundry that was in the washer got full of dirt from the rainfall last night. The guys completely clogged up the laundry sink (photo #2).

And I decided to put our two open boxes of Bounce (why two? because we like it!) in the upstairs/outdoor fridge next to the washer to keep it dry (photo #3).

Every day here is a new adventure in everyday living! (I'm gonna figure it all out if it kills me.)

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Rain.


Wow, did it rain last night.

You'd think I'd be used to rain. After all, fifteen-plus years in Seattle . . .

But this was, as my husband says, a toad-choker.

First the sky turned a sickly grey-green. Then the wind came up in crazy gusts. Then we ran upstairs to close the banging windows and unplug all our precious electronics. Then it started to pour.

We didn't lose electricity, but we did lose our satellite service. So we played Tri-ominos. It's a little bit easier than dominos -- since you don't have to do all that adding in your head. Pretty fun.

Thank goodness da boyz are not at all fazed by thunder and lightning. I have a feeling that, for them, every day here is "Anything Can Happen Day." We get the yeah, whatever reaction from them. Yesterday they came across a 2-inch dead lizard in the dining room. It was good for an intense sniff and then . . . whatever. (I, on the other hand, asked Ross to please deal with it.)

By the way . . . I have gone back and added some photos to a few of my posts. (What is this, Carolyn? A scrapbook?) Anyway, if you're interested, you can go through and peek at them.

And this post is illustrated by a picture of our banana tree. You can see only one of about four bunches. Ross has already made two loaves of excellent banana bread. Did you know that banana trees are actually herbs? So my herb garden is bigger than we thought, isn't it?