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.


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.


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


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?

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Ladies who lunch.

I went to a ladies' lunch today. There were a dozen of us "of a certain age." I was assured I wouldn't need a red hat. Thank goodness!

Our friend, Barbara, invited me. She's one of the three people we know here. (Yeah, that's kinda sad. It happens when you're as introverted as we are.)

I really enjoyed the people I met . . . but now I realize I got no phone numbers, made no dates, nothin'. Isn't that embarrassing? Oh well. One step at a time.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Catching my breath.

I hope we're getting more into the groove of living in a strange place, but sometimes it feels like one step forward and two steps back.

I think I'm out of sorts because Ross left for Phoenix this morning. He doesn't get home till tomorrow night. So I'm here alone with my anxieties. What's that noise? Why is everything so loud? There sure are a lot of people running around here. Will I be in the way if I leave my office? Will the dogs be in the way if I let them out in the yard?

We didn't opt for the new garage, but we're giving the front of the house a facelift. So there are workers and bricks and steel beams and roof tiles and rebar. Oh my.

They work hard and they work long. Their lunch break is hardly noticeable. They seem very cheerful. I want them to go away.

But that's just because I'm in a cranky mood. What I really want is for them to get it done and done well.

At the other end of the spectrum is Ana. She's our housekeeper. She makes no noise. I can't even tell if she's here. I go looking for her and can't find her. My guess is that she hides in the bathroom for hours. I'm pretty sure Ross is happy with her, and he's usually pickier about housekeepers than I am. But I can't tell that she cleans. She loves to organize. My clothes get folded (if I wash them). My toiletries are always neatly aligned. I still see a lot of dirt in the corners.

Hmmm. Get ready for a happier post tomorrow.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Taste this!

I finished my so-called herb garden yesterday. It's not exactly a garden since it's in pots located on three different floors. Downstairs is rosemary, basil and thyme. On the terrace we have mint. And upstairs I was planning to have cilantro, curly parsley and Italian parsley. I was sure we saw Italian parsley at the nursery last weekend.

But there was no Italian parsley. After we got the mint, curly parsley and cilantro, I would still have an empty pot. What to do?

There was a section of plants right in the middle of the herbs that looked very attractive. It wasn't labeled. So I tasted it. Wow! Was it spicy. Peppery even.

"Huh," I said. "Ross! Taste this!"

He didn't want to taste it.

"No, really. Taste it! It's good."

Well, okay. (Pause.) Yep. It's spicy.

"What is it?"

He didn't know. So he brought it to the desk and asked. The woman there wrote down "Ruda," which we'd never heard of. She mimed something about crumbling it up and putting it in her ear, which seemed ridiculous. I'd tasted a leaf and it belonged in a sauce. Taken internally.

On the way home, Ross sounded pretty convinced I'd poisoned him.

"I'll look it up as soon as we get home."

Of course, I didn't. I started planting mint as soon as we got home.

So Ross looked it up in Wikipedia. Ruda = Rue:

"When applied to the skin with sun exposure, the oil and leaves can cause blistering. Rue oil can cause severe stomach pain, vomiting and convulsions and may be fatal."

So now I know why rue means regret.

Here's what it looks like close-up:

By the way, we lived. No blisters, no convulsions. Nada. But I planted it in a pot that the dogs can't easily get to.