Saturday, May 31, 2008

French-fried shrimp

When I was a little girl and my family would go out to eat, I'd always order "french-fried shrimp" whenever it was on the menu. It must have been a pretty typical item in the early-mid '60s.

It always came with french-fried potatoes and cocktail sauce. I'd eat the potatoes first, then the shrimp. Or maybe it was the other way around. Anyway. I didn't like to mix my food back then. It seemed important. It also seemed important to my Dad that I eat some shrimp with my fries and some fries with my shrimp. He thought cleaning the plate in a circular fashion was weird and impolite. I'm sure he's right. I've never met an adult who eats that way. Or if I have, I was only paying attention to my own plate, so I didn't notice. He'd tell me that if I couldn't eat like a polite person, I couldn't order french-fried shrimp anymore. That was a threat too horrible to bear. So I mixed. I'm sure I argued about it, though.

Today we found a place that serves shrimp and chips -- just like fish and chips -- with cocktail sauce. It was the best ever. There was another place here that had it as a special once -- they even called it "french-fried." But I never saw it again. This place has it on the regular menu. I think it was priced for 1962, too. Just $80 pesos -- about $7.50.


Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Gone with the wind.

Ross took off for Houston this morning. The good news is he'll be home tonight!

So the dogs and I are hanging out, listening to the birds sing, wishing we could be outside enjoying the perfect weather. I have a lot of work going on . . . just taking a brain break here.

Ross has done a ton of work around the house -- mostly involving drilling holes into concrete. He and Jack hung a ceiling fan in the dining room last week. Ross put up a knife rack and a utensil rack in the kitchen on Monday. He hung a pot rack yesterday.

I've only pulled some stuff out of storage rooms and organized a little. We should be fully unpacked by the time we go back north. I'm kind of kidding.

We decided against expanding the carport on this trip. It was too spendy for us right now. Maybe after we sell the Seattle house.

Even so, the improvements never end. Tomorrow a carpenter, Antonio Ramirez, is coming to tell us how much a roomful of bookshelves will cost. We'll be transforming the "sun room" into the "library."

The gardeners have been working overtime taking out a big tree in the front yard, to make room for a mango tree. The old tree is a giant version of a schefflera -- I'm sure at some time in your life you've had one of these as a houseplant. This one was two-stories high, constantly dropped leaves and the roots broke up our walkway a little. So goodbye. Now we'll get a dwarf tree that'll drop fruit.

Monday, May 26, 2008

I know my life would look all right if I could see it on the silver screen.

When I was young and single, I went to a LOT of movies. The big weekends, like Christmas, Memorial Day and the 4th of July meant movies and lots of 'em. Ross and I went to plenty of movies, too . . . a long, long while ago.

We soured on the whole movie experience in recent years, and have done all our movie-watching months or even years after the release -- from the comfort of our living room.

Today we went to the matinee of the new Indiana Jones movie. I feel like a kid again!

For one thing, the prices were from the 1980s. It was two bucks a pop for the tickets. A muy grande bucket of popcorn (we could only get through half of it) and two diet Cokes cost about $5. Parking was free.

Best thing? NO ONE TALKED! Not during the show. Not during the previews. Not even during the ads. No one's cell phone rang. No one's baby cried.

Un. Be. Lievable. I could weep with happiness.

By the way, the ads were all local and extremely entertaining. Half were in English with Spanish subtitles and half were in Spanish with English subtitles. All were quite well done.

The movie itself was in English (i.e., not dubbed), with Spanish subtitles.

Our experience may be different in the evenings or on weekends. But matinees are okay by me.

Blog housekeeping.

Several people have emailed me saying they had trouble posting comments -- so I changed a couple of settings. I hope it helps. Do me a favor and try sending a comment. If you try and it fails, would you please tell me in an email?

Plus . . . if you're interested, it looks like you can subscribe to this blog and get notified in your email. If you scroll all the way down to the bottom, there's a little "Subscribe to" thingie you can click. When I do this, it shows up in an "RSS Feeds" Folder in Outlook. I don't know what it looks like if you don't have Outlook.

Saturday, May 24, 2008


Every year, around this time, I plant my rooftop herb garden. I think my Dad puts in tomatoes around Memorial Day . . . so that probably explains my timing.

This year, because we're in Mexico, I've been even more excited about the idea. Possibly because it's a lot less likely that 90% of what I plant today will be dead by August.

I've come to terms with my inability to take care of my herbs for four months in a row in Seattle. I finally decided a couple of years ago that I'm going to spend a certain amount of money on herbs and pots and soil each year. It's a pretty generous budget. So generous I'm embarrassed to admit what it is in this public arena. My feeling is, if they die, so be it. It's a little self-indulgent, but so are the cut flowers we buy in the market each week. They give us pleasure for a while and then they die.

But now I'm wildly optimistic. For one thing, the climate is awfully good for plants, even potted ones, at this time of year. By the time I start getting lax about watering them, it'll be the rainy season. For another thing, our gardeners water the potted plants we keep outside, as well as everything else the yard needs. So once the rainy season is over, the herbs' new friends, Armando and Javier, will be taking better care of them than I ever would.

I just about spent my full budget today. I bought three great big gorgeous pots and one smallish one. I bought three extremely large bags of soil. And I bought one bag of lava rock for drainage that I probably didn't need, once I looked in the bodega and saw that we had a bunch of broken roof tiles. I also got three rosemary plants, two basil and one thyme. The plants themselves were about $5.

We have a few pots around here I can rescue for more herbs. So I'll probably expand my little garden this weekend or next without breaking my budget.

Then we'll really be cookin'.


It's a three-day weekend, but I'm spending the morning in my office.

Ross has several men here to give us an estimate for some work. I'm keeping the dogs in here with me -- because Slick was annoying them.

Yes, we're thinking about getting a little work done. A facelift for the carport. We have a two car carport with a single (extremely small) door. And now that we have two vehicles here, it would be nice to keep both of them off the street at night without a lot of dancing around.

That sounds simple enough . . . but it involves moving the LP gas tank to another part of the yard and bringing the gas lines into the house.

Nothing is ever easy, is it?

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Clean plate club.

Have you heard the expression, "We eat our own dog food"?

It's business jargon for "we practice what we preach." We do what we tell our clients to do. I think it suggests that if you make dog food, you should be willing to eat it.

I made dog food. I even tasted it. It could use some salt.

We can't get our normal dog food here. We brought down a forty-pound bag . . . but that's not enough for three months.

Most dog food is made in China. And most other dog food is made from stuff you wouldn't want to eat. So I got a recipe out of a dog book and made meatloaf for da boyz.

I was a little nervous. But they seemed to like it even better than the usual kibble. Woohoo!

The next test is whether it agrees with their tummies. It's been a few hours. No one is begging to go outside. So I think it'll be okay. Normal procedure is to go half and half for awhile and then switch. That's what we did.

Not that we're completely weird about these guys.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008


I played hooky from work for a couple hours this morning and we went to the Wednesday market. This is a very cool place where you can walk down one street for about two blocks and find almost anything you could possibly need. For cheap. My favorite is the polyester underwear. I'm just amazed that it's there . . . not that I really want any.

Today we bought some veggies and a Walkman for our neighbor the rap music fan.

Ross went over to him and explained how important it was to me that he turn down his music -- and he actually turned it off! What a relief. Then we felt a little guilty. Hence the Walkman (or "portable CD player/radio").

Here's hoping that's a permanent solution. At the price in the mercado, I could probably replace every boombox in this town. My own little contribution to solving the noise pollution problem.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Sit down and have a pizza pie.

Took Jack and Bunny to the airport today . . . so we're on our own again.

We're looking forward to having some time to pull things together a bit more here at Casa Gecko. It's certainly livable -- but we've barely been able to go grocery shopping!

The weather seems to be cooling down a little. According to it only got up to 80 degrees today. And it's raining nearly every afternoon. It's plenty warm and sunny, just not ridiculously so.

We had dinner tonight at a new place -- an Argentinian restaurant called San Telmo. It must be Italian, too, because I had the best pizza ever. And I needed a doggie bag, so I can have some for lunch tomorrow. Yum! So if you come visit Ajijic (and, of course, you're invited!) make sure we bring you there for truly amazing pizza.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Running with the big dogs.

I took the dogs for a walk to the lake today. We haven't been going for formal walks as much, because they've had so much exercise chasing us up and down stairs. But for most of today we were alone (Ross took Jack and Bunny into Guadalajara and I sat at my desk), so we were bored and hadn't gotten much of a workout.

The lake is looking very different. The plague of lirios (water hyacinth) seems to be entirely gone. It also looks like they've filled in more land at the end of the street that goes down to the lake -- with just a little more sand it could be a beach. Without the lirios, you can see small waves lap the shore. I've never seen that here before.

We read a report in one of the local magazines that Lake Chapala was recently tested and found to be safe for recreational use. Now I can actually imagine it.

By the way, the dogs saw a horse and a cow in the two blocks between here and the lake. Slick decided the horse was the biggest dog he ever saw and he didn't want to confront him. The cow was further away, so no one got their backs up about seeing her.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Simultaneous translation.

Today we were in Tequila. Yes, we were bathing in it.

Actually, we took Jack and Bunny to the town of Tequila. We found a little distillery outside of town called Tres Mujeres that we had visited a couple of years ago. We took a tour, entirely in Spanish. Ross translated for us. It turns out that the woman who showed us around was one of the the three women the place was named for. She was delightful.

We found a place to have lunch -- and left as soon as the tour buses arrived.

Then we went to the Jose Cuervo factory. The English-language tour was at 2 p.m. and we arrived just before 3. So we let Ross translate for us again. I'm sure he did an excellent job.

He also did a fine job of working things out when he was caught driving the wrong way on a one-way street. (This was before we tasted any tequila -- and I talked him into making the turn against his better judgment. So it really, really wasn't his fault.)

The dogs took great care of the house while we were out. Nothing got chewed! Yay!

Friday, May 16, 2008

Go fish.

Ross and Jack went fishin'.

Who knew we lived so close to the white hot bass fishing center of the universe?

They caught 92 fish (and threw them all back). They say that's an average of a fish caught every six minutes. Ross brought my camera, so I'll post a couple of the highlights.

Bunny and I had a couple of fun "girls' days" right here in Ajijic -- as soon as work was through anyway. We went out to eat. We went shopping. We watched a DVD. Tonight I cooked dinner in preparation for the reture of our heroes. It tasted pretty darn good, if I do say so myself. I hope I didn't poison anyone.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Time out of mind.

The time difference is kinda bugging me. While I'm working, I have my mind on Seattle time . . . and it makes me a little crazy.

I sit down around 7:30 or 8 a.m. and it's only 5:30 or 6 in Seattle. I work and work and work -- by which I mean I read and I write. The time just drags. I'm on my third breakfast by the time people are starting to think about lunch in Seattle. I need to get to the point where I'm only worried about what I've accomplished, rather than what's going on up north.

We have more company.

Ross's brother Jack and Jack's girlfriend Bunny arrived on Tuesday. They're both a lot of fun, so it's kind of a pain that I'm working and not on vacation. Ross and Jack are going fishing tomorrow. I'm going to take a little time to go shopping with Bunny.

Jack really likes the dogs -- and they like him -- so I won't be shocked if he gets a basenji when he goes back to Oklahoma.

Monday, May 12, 2008

The end of the weekend guest story.

The guests left yesterday. They were lovely -- only a bit ditzy. The reason they didn't get here was that they left their house two hours late. I can understand why they might not want to call us from there (I don't know what long distance charges are in Mexico) -- but I still think they could at least have sent an email. But enough about that.

Here's the embarrassing part. They must think I'm the world's worst hostess. Apparently, back when I signed up for this, I must have read something that told me as a host, I'm supposed to provide "a light breakfast." They had to ask for it! (I thought giving them a place to sleep was all I'd signed up for.) The reason for my confusion is that it's possible to trade houses without the hosts even being there. But even in that case, you're supposed to provide the fixin's for "a light breakfast."

It gets worse. On the last day, they show me a flyer that the people who started this whole idea put together. The guests are supposed to tip the hosts 200 pesos a night! Oy. I don't want money for this! I'm reading this in absolute horror right in front of them, while they're drinking the coffee and eating the cereal I gave them. Money? Now I'm wondering . . . did I give them their money's worth? Two hundred pesos is worth about $18. Times three. That's $54. Too much to be a token and too little to be a business. I have a friend who uses the word "mortified" a lot. Now I know exactly what she means.

Fortunately, they begged off paying for some reason. (They spoke to Ross, not me. They didn't have change, maybe?) And they offered to let us stay at their place for free. What a relief. They must have had some idea how bad we would have felt taking their money. They did take us out to dinner on Saturday, and that was plenty of compensation.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Mother's Day.

Mother's Day in this part of the world is May 10 -- no matter which day of the week it falls on. And -- surprise! -- it starts at exactly midnight. With artillery. At least that's how it sounded to us. The first three or four blasts incorporated themselves into my dream, but then I woke up. I think I counted more than twenty . . . explosions. Fireworks? Whatever.

Then I heard some wonderful singing -- four part harmonies. I thought, "that's not some drunk." Then I fell back to sleep.

We learned that the tradition is to wake Mom up in the middle of the night with a professional serenade! Isn't that thoughtful?

Everywhere we went today there were flowers for sale -- and women walking down the street carrying bouquets.

We spent the day in Guadalajara looking for a couple of necessities -- and ending up with a lot of stuff. How does that happen? Shopping in ninety-plus degree heat must make us a little loco. All I can say is that it's good to be home.

Happy Mother's Day, Mom! If I had a gun, I'd shoot it off in your honor. But knowing how you feel about guns, I imagine you are more honored by the fact that I've never even held a gun, much less shot one.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Waiting for dinner.

Ross got home right on time yesterday. I realized I hadn't left the house since I got back until I drove to the airport to pick him up.

We now have houseguests.

Some people we know in San Miguel de Allende have started this Mexican house exchange on the Internet. We joined sort of as a favor to them. I'm ready to de-list now.

I had a nice email exchange with the woman. I told her I was picking up Ross at the airport, so could they arrive before 4 p.m., or after 7? She said they'd come shortly after 7 and they'd love to take us to dinner. I assumed that meant when they arrived. I still think that's what she meant, but they didn't get here until 9:30.

I went through all the phases of grief.

First there was denial. "I'm sure they'll be here any minute."

Then anger. "I'm starving!!! Don't these people know how to use a phone?"

The bargaining part was really Ross's role. He had to call three restaurants to find one that stayed open that late. (Yes, I know. Ajijic rolls up its sidewalks around 9 p.m. on a weeknight.)

Where's the part of grief where guilt and fear come in? There was about an hour where I was sure they were in a horrible accident and couldn't call. I felt terrible for all the awful things I'd been thinking.

Acceptance came when we finally opened a can of soup and ate.

Finally they called. I don't know how long they spent looking for the place . . . I haven't actually talked to them yet. Ross went to get them and sent them off to the 10 p.m. restaurant on their own. I went to bed. I hear them beginning to stir now.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Get back to work!

I spent all day and more working at my computer(s). I never felt so chained to my desk! It's because if I'm not here to answer email or take a call, I'm afraid they'll all think I'm slacking. My guilty conscience is ruining all my fun.

It was good to have the company of the dogs, because otherwise it's a bit isolated working alone like this. (Okay . . . I'll reconsider after doing it more than one day, all right?)

I did talk to several folks on the phone. So I'm glad for that Vonage set-up.

Tomorrow our new housekeeper comes. Her name is Ana. Ross met her on Monday. I'm a little intimidated, because she doesn't speak English.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

I love it when a plan comes together.

It all worked out (on my end anyway). Ross and I met in the Guadalajara airport and had about twenty minutes to explain everything that's going on. I found the truck and drove home -- even backed it into the garage. It took two tries, but don't tell Ross that.

I got a very enthusiastic greeting from the dogs.

Ross called when he got to Houston, so I know he's halfway there anyway.

He had bought some groceries so I could make lunch/dinner for myself. I was starving since I had bought breakfast at the airport and ate on the plane at around 6:30 Seattle time and I didn't arrive here until after 3 p.m.

So da boyz and I have had a quiet evening at home alone. Since I'm exhausted, I'm going to bed. (Clearly,I've adjusted to Central Time.)

Monday, May 5, 2008

Now back to Mexico.

Tomorrow morning -- bright and early -- I jump on a plane back to Mexico. And Ross will jump on a plane to Grand Rapids, Michigan, just about the time I get through customs. We're crossing our fingers that we get to see each other. (Guadalajara is not a huge airport, so if he hasn't gone through security yet, we'll definitely find each other.)

I took a couple photos of my new office, but the computer I'm on right now doesn't have an SD slot for downloading pictures, so that will have to wait until tomorrow.

The day at work was like one long party! We all gathered downstairs, because our keycards wouldn't work the elevators until after 8 a.m. So that was the first "cocktail party." Then at 8:30 we all gathered in the largest meeting room for a brief talk by Spyro. There was a latte cart in the new cafe at 9 a.m. -- just in time for another line. Then we all got a tour. And at noon, they brought in lunch! It's amazing that we all got our boxes unpacked. But we did.

I told my road adventure stories over and over. That was fun, too.

I talked to Ross a couple of times today and he says the dogs are doing fine when he's left them home alone for awhile. He also says that they're sleeping a lot. Hot, sunny weather will do that to you.

So the cab is coming at 4 a.m. tomorrow and I ought to touch ground around 2 p.m. That's only eight "real" hours because of the time difference. But it means I'd better get to bed right about now.

Back in Seattle again.

Got back to Seattle this afternoon. Right on time. Was greeted by Todd and Linda at the airport -- and they came in my very own Prius. All is familiar again.

Spyro had left a voice mail on my phone saying that some folks were at the new building and, if I wanted, I could come on by. So I did. I got a very nice dinner out of the deal, too.

The new office looks great -- and will look even better when everything is unpacked. I have a great view.

It's a very, very quiet house without Ross and dogs.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Ear plugs for dogs

Ross spent a good portion of the morning setting up my oficina. I'm now completely geeked -- I have a big monitor and two laptop screens I can use.

Slick did not sleep well last night. Consequently neither did we. It was very noisy outside -- strange birds, barking dogs, fireworks (Labor Day was May 1, and we think they're still celebrating). We have the windows open and this concrete house is very echo-y, so everything sounds like it's happening practically right in the room.

Bob was oblivious.

I wonder if they make ear plugs for dogs. I may need some for myself as well. One bird "sang" all night. I think his song is one long knock-knock joke. It's more of a click than a melody.

This morning, we did something we've never done before. We took the boys to a restaurant! Salvador's has outdoor seating and a good breakfast. It worked out great. The first person we saw asked, "Are those basenjis?"

The boys saw a couple other dogs -- but were easily distracted because they knew we had bacon and might actually part with some. (We have never, ever fed them "people food" from the table before.)

The photo is of da boyz sacked out in my new oficina.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Made it.

We arrived here around 4 p.m. And that's after crossing a couple time zones and losing two hours. (Mazatlan must be right on the edge of Pacific Time.) This was a much more relaxed day. We even allowed ourselves to sleep in a little.

When we got to town, Ross stopped at a restaurant close to home and ordered something for takeout while I walked the dogs to our house. The dog whisperer guy on TV says to walk them around a lot before introducing them to a new home. I guess we went a block. (Hey! It was hot! All three of us were panting by the time we got to the gate.) I took them through the house on leashes and around the yard. They both peed on a tree -- so I guess that means they own the place.

It's so big compared to what they're used to. Or at least what we give them free range to explore in Seattle. They have even lost track of each other once or twice. None of the weird sounds seem to bother them so far, except barking. I've set up my home computer in the room that will be my office -- and they've come in to sit with me some. But they'll go running off as soon as they hear a dog.

They don't seem to be in the mood to gnaw on anything. So that's good. I'm wondering when we'll feel comfortable leaving them home alone. It has to happen at some point!

The weather is in the low 80s. Hot in the sun, nice in the shade. It's the hottest time of year here right now, but we have nice cross-ventilation in every part of the house.

I guess I should go unpack something.

P.S. I think I'll keep going with this until I run out of stuff to say, so keep checking in.


The border crossing couldn't have gone more smoothly . . . in fact, I never got out of the truck, never showed my face, never answered a question. Ross signed my name to my tourist visa -- right in front of the guy! He asked. "Should I take this out to her to sign?" The guy said no. It was better to just have Ross sign it. Figures.

At customs, Ross went in and registered the truck. He asked about the dogs. After all, we'd gone to a lot of trouble to get the proper paperwork signed by our vet on Monday night. They looked confused and said it wasn't necessary to register them. We got through customs with a green light, so we got no questions about our very tightly packed truck. Huh. All that angst, for naught.

We took the toll road to Mazatlan. It's pretty expensive and there was a lot of construction going on at first. We got lost in the first big town we came to (Hermosillo) because they blocked off the street we wanted to get onto.

By the way, Lainie mentioned OnStar in her comment . . . we do have a new GPS system that includes Mexico. Ross programmed her to have an Australian accent, so we call her Sheila. She did a lot of "recalculating" when we couldn't get on Avenida Rosales (or as Sheila pronounced it, "Row-sails.") We finally got to the toll road without much help from policemen we asked, or from Sheila herself.

We have a Trip Tik from AAA that's been the most help. Or, possibly, the most consistent.

Plus, Ross also printed out directions from Microsoft Streets and Trips. They're Plan C and we haven't looked at them yet.

We're in Mazatlan now. So it was Plan A or B -- or perhaps the ingenuity of the navigator -- that got us here.

We're in a hotel close to the beach. I think it's some kind of Spring Break. Or May Day celebration? (HAPPY BIRTHDAY, ANITA!) Parties galore. The whole place smells like cerveza.

Speaking of Sheila . . . she didn't have a clue when we entered the address and the name of the hotel didn't ring a bell -- but we did have a printed map from the Internet. With a GPS, even if they don't know what you want, you have the benefit of knowing exactly where you are on the map. That's really, really helpful.

It seemed to take forever to get here, but we arrived at 8:30, which is pretty much when we've gotten where we landed every day this week. Tomorrow will be a shorter day -- thank goodness! But still about 8 hours of driving. One of the worst parts of the day today were all the bugs hitting the windshield from about 5 p.m. until dark. Seriously, it sounded like a heavy rain pelting the front of the truck. We stopped as a gas station just to wash the windshield and within 5 minutes it looked the same as it had before.

The best thing about today was how easy the border crossing was and how sweet our puppies were the whole time. They're really wonderful traveling companions and we had no idea!

We have to figure out how to sneak them into nice restaurants and boutiques. Then we can take them to Europe with us.