Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Adventures in Texas

It would seem that since the trip to Texas is at about the same time each year with the mission to see family, friends and enjoy delicious food, that it would be a rather non-adventurous event.  Au contraire.  Every year it is anything but dull.

Just as I am trying to write this, it is an adventure, as the computer is not allowing me to put this sentence into a new paragraph.  Aargh.  I'm still having problems from when the encryption nightmare happened over a month ago, so bear with me.

I tried to write this blog yesterday on the laptop and three quarters of the way through, it all deleted.  Maybe it is writer's error and not the computer............ha.

Back to my adventure in Texas.  It was a frenzy of family, friends and dining out on all kinds of good food.

I managed to see all five GRAND kids, my brother and sister-in-law and my daughter and son-in-law.  In the midst of the trip, a great surprise happened when my two nieces, one from Shreveport and another from Florida, drove to Houston to see me.  How delightful it was to see them as it had been thirteen years.   Nice surprise.

One of my main reasons for heading up and staying a little later then usual was to be there for my grandson's high school graduation.  He is the son of my daughter Jennifer.  We got to spend time together and it was encouraging to hear what his plans are for the near future.  Kids today are so

Here is Christopher with his long time girlfriend Kayla.  A sweet, lovely young lady.  Graduation was out of doors and wouldn't you know, there was a minor monsoon that day which made it seem that there would be no outdoor graduation, but, it cleared, the sky was so clear that the stars and moon were beautiful.  The cool breeze added to the enjoyment of watching five hundred plus kids file up to get their diplomas.  Of course I was all choked up to see my grandson walk up to get his diploma and wishing that his Mom could be there to witness this auspicious event...........but, maybe she was  - in spirit.

Then we got together another time, about a week later to celebrate his graduation. 
We met at the Flying Dutchman restaurant in Kemah, on the water, to hear all about his future plans.  My sister-in-law, Annette and brother Bill, were with me.  It was a fun time.

There were many highlights in this trip, this was one of them.  Much, much more to share in the next few days.  It will take several posts for this three week saga.

I'm back home in San Miguel.  There is no place like home even though I was well taken care of in each place that I laid my head from Houston to Omega Bay to Seabrook to Austin and back to Houston.  Whew!  It was a journey.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Meeting New People

Traveling is always an interesting time.  One meets or greets a bevy of people in an eight hour period or however long one is traveling.  Wednesday was no different.  It was actually enjoyable.

Oscar was the van driver who drove me to Leon for my flight.  Then there were three passengers besides myself.  John, Ellie and the husband of Rebecca who never said his name.  John lives very close to me, farther up the hill.  He was on his way to Corpus Christi.  We have many mutual friends it turns out.  Then Rebecca's husband indicated that she is in real estate.  To prove it is a small world, she and my son John have a real estate sale that they are working on to close!

Ellie was visiting San Miguel for the first time for a week.  She is from Portland, Oregon..  A retired school teacher and cosmetic tattoo person.  She came to check out San Miguel.  She had already found a house for sale and was going back to sell everything and move.  One week!  I suggested she not sell her house yet in Portland, but, rather, come down for six months, rent and make sure.  Yikes,
people astound me when they make such a major decision so fast.

My flight to Houston was uneventful and smooth.  With a half empty plane, I was able to sit where I was on the row alone and look out the window when the Gulf of Mexico came into sight.  Aaah.  Water.  It is always astonishing to see how green the fields are in Texas after being in a semi-arid area for a year.  Gorgeous.

Even getting through customs and all that rigamarole was smooth and before you know it, I was at the Super Shuttle counter to get my ride to the rental car lot in Houston.   Johnny was the driver.  A lifelong resident of Houston, he was fascinated to hear about Mexico.  Truly fascinated.  He asked lots of questions. And, you know me, I love talking about Mexico.  By the end of the ride, I would not be surprised if Johnny and his wife werw to show up in San Miguel for a visit!

Got the rental car with no problem.  I had used Hotwire for the first time.  Saved $450USD on a three week rental.  Amazing!  Who knew?

Thankfully I know my way around Houston.  Even though it was a little after 4PM and fast approaching that 5 o'clock traffic, I quickly got on West Gray to San Felipe and was at my destination in about 20 minutes.  Smooth as glass.  Amazingly.

All in all, it is surreal to get up in Mexico and then to be having dinner in Houston.  We live in a
great time of conveniences and interesting people.

Yesterday was the day for the dreaded task of going to AT&T to get minutes in my US cell phone for the time I'm in the USA.  I knew it would not go smoothly..........and it did not.  It seemed at first that it was. but when I tried to use the phone with the minutes on it before I left AT&T, it would not work.
It turns out that that series of phones no longer is "viable" as they have stopped allowing service on it even though I purchased it only three years ago.  Long story short, I ended up buying a new phone with minutes.  It's a flip top phone.  Last night I discovered that I can even take photos with it.  The cost of the phone and the minutes - slightly over $100USD. 

I must say that Gary at AT&T was the most patient and persistent man in helping both myself and my friend Martha.  If he did not know the answer, he either figured it out or got help.  It turns out his wife writes a blog and free lances for the Houston Chronicle and other publications.  She even has a book deal coming up.  Interesting all the things you learn without even expecting to by talking with people that you meet along the way.

One major observation of the past two days has been the courtesy of people.  My friend Martha has a walker.  People have stopped in parking lots to allow us to cross in front of them.  They have held doors as we entered restaurants both coming and going.  It is lovely to see the courtesy and manners of strangers as well.  It is expected in San Miguel.  I was not sure how it would be in a big city.  I had forgotten how welcoming Houston is.

Welcome to the USA!

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Outtahere Soon!

It is that time of the year when I head north of the border to see family, friends and the city that was home for thirty-four years.

It's always a whirlwind affair.  Houston is so big that if you are in the area around NASA where I and my children lived for seventeen years, you are over fifty miles from the other side of Houston!  To say it is spread out is an understatement.  Here in San Miguel, one can walk from one side of town to
the other in about forty minutes!

The whirlwind is always fun.  The last two years my trip was to be there for my oldest granddaughter's graduation from Texas A&M.  Then last year was Hannah and Andrew's graduation from high school in Kingwood.

This year it is the graduation of my grandson, Christopher, from Clear Lake High School.  There will be one more graduation, when Emma graduates, and then it will be quite a while before Matilda and
Sebastian, who are here in San Miguel get to that age.

I'm thrilled to be able to be with Christopher for his graduation and to catch up on what his plans are
for his future.  At one point he told me he wanted to go into robotics.  This past year he built a drone from scratch.  He is VERY detail oriented.  It is very exciting that the whole world is open to him and
his dreams as it has been to all of the grandchildren.

Then there is seeing all of the rest of the family in one way or the other.  Here are a few photos of the big celebration and the time spent with family last year.

 In the above photo, hidden but not forgotten is my brother and sister-ín-law, my daughter, and my oldest granddaughter Jessica.  I don't know where the rest of the family was at the time of this photo, but there are more then this!
 I treasure the above photo.  It is my daughter, Jewels, along with Jessica, Hannah and Emma.  Note they are ALL taller then me!  Amazing.
This was such a fun photo.  The kids had been cooking and we had a great dinner.  They even cleaned up the kitchen!  This is Emma, me, Christopher and Hannah. 

The agenda for thisupcoming trip is exciting.  First, when I land and get a rental car, I'll head to my dear friend Martha's house.  We met twenty-five years ago through the Houston Culinary Guild and a delightful friendship has grown.  Martha is a food historian.  She has traveled worldwide in pursuit of more knowledge about the subject of food.  Her knowledge is extensive and enlightening.  Even at her age of somewhere in the mid-80's, she is always busy going somewhere or doing something.   She is a treasure to know.  A true Southern woman.  I call her my Steel Magnolia.

I'm blessed that when I call friends in Houston and say I'm coming up, they always reply, "You are going to stay with me or us for a while, aren't you?"  And, I do.  I'll be at Martha's for about five days then I head toward Galveston and stay with my friends, Amanda and Patrick on Galveston Bay!

My plans continue when I head back inland toward Clear Lake to spend a couple of nights in that area so I can be near my grandson for his graduation.  During that time a dinner party has been planned to see friends.  One is a realtor who helped me find a house to buy after my husband died in 1978!  We have been lifelong friends. 

Then I head to Austin to spend time with Jessica and to check out her new living accommodations along with seeing where she works.  I'll be there for a few days. 

Who knows where I'll be after that.  By then we're at about the 8th of June.  I'll only have six days left.  It's hard to plan that far in advance, but I can't wait to spend time with my daughter, son-in-law and all the grand kids.  Whew.  No, I haven't forgotten my brother and sister-in-law either. OR my nephew Ryan and his wife Lacey who are expecting another baby.  They have two precious boys now and it's exciting to wonder who the addition to the family will be. 
 The photos of the flowers and gardens were taken last year while staying at my brother and sister-in-law's house.  She is a fabulous gardener which is reflected in how lush and beautiful all the gardens look on each of my visits. 
Annette has tropical things in her gardens that I can not get to grow at this elevation, unfortunately.  Gardenias are one of the plants.  She has a wall of gardenias.  The fragrance for me, brings back
so many memories. 
Hopefully while in the Houston area, I'll get to sail a couple of times.  Something I miss greatly here in San Miguel.  It still amazes me that I do not live near water anymore.  In addition, I'm sure I'll enjoy a sunset or two from somewhere on this journey. 

While I'm off gallivanting around for several weeks, Josefina, the maid and Javier, the handyman and gardener, will be here watching over the house and taking care of the daily chores. Thank goodness for them.

I am definitely a lucky lady to have the life I live.  The family I love.  And the friends who enrich my life.  

See you on down the road.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Sleepless in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico

It is THAT time of year!  Our summer.  It is usually about two plus months long...........then the rainy season comes in with rain to cool it off each evening. Our summer is April, May and half of June.

However, right now it gets up in the 90's in the late afternoon and cools off, somewhat, during the night to the high 50's.  When the rainy season comes, hopefully soon, there will be no more 90's, but rather high 70's during the day and low 50's at night!  Then the weather is perfect.  We'll no longer be wearing gauzy lightweight clothes but instead back in our cotton and denim clothes that are heavier weight.

Right now it is a bit miserable.  Very few people have air conditioning.  More and more are getting the air conditioning splits or the new gizmo, an air conditioner on wheels, to be wheeled from room to room!  I have not seen one but it does sound too good to be true.

What most of us do is sleep with the windows and doors open.  That is if the doors and windows have screens.  There is usually a cool breeze at night.  And, there also are ceiling fans or circulating fans that can be put in front of a window to bring the cool air in such as the window fans of the olden days. 

I remember growing up with attic fans in the South when nothing was air conditioned.  Not stores, not schools nor the One Hour Martinizing Cleaners where I worked as a teenager.  Somehow back
then the heat did not seem as hot.  Maybe it was not.........

Here all the flowers are trying to hang on til the rains come as well.  We did have a rain last week with thunder and lightning.  It rained a soft rain all night.  What a treasure!

I always laugh at how excited we all get when it rains.  Growing up in a part of the country where rain was taken for granted and the yards took on the look of a tropical jungle, never ever did I think
I would wish for rain.  Definitely, it becomes a wish and a topic of discussion here in Mexico about
this time of the year - every year.

The only positive thing to be said is that the humidity up here in the mountains is very low.  Usually about 20% or lower.  Thankfully.  Therefore it does not feel as hot as it does in places like Houston or New Orleans where the humidity is typically 90%.  There the heat hits one like a blast furnace.

Luckily, we won't be sleepless much longer.  The rain dances and ceremonies are going on as I write.
The elders say it won't be long............RAIN!

Tuesday, May 09, 2017

Sights and Sounds of Mexico

When I first came to Mexico as a visitor more then forty years ago, many of the sounds of Mexico were captivating.  They still are.  Brooms sweeping.  Church bells ringing. Children laughing and singing.  And, music most of the time.

This morning as I opened the gates to pull the car out of the garden and park it on the street, my greeting
was balloons, tissue paper flowers along with lots and lots of parents entering the primary school grounds
for the Fiesta de Madre.  Much laughter could be heard, as the excitement could be felt. 

Scurrying to get my coffee and head up to the roof terrace, I had a bird's eye view of all the dancing, singing and laughter of all.  What a heartwarming sight.  Two hours later, the parents and children have left leaving all quiet on the home front.

It is a treasure never to know from one day to the next what is going to happen here in this joyful place.
Although I did not get photos of the festivities this morning, here are a few photos of scenes we see from
time to time in San Miguel de Allende.

Papel picado is used often for decorations and is an inexpensive way to add color and joy to a celebration.
They are hung in homes for a celebration or in the gardens or as seen above, strung across streets or large
spaces as these were hung for the festivities of Dia de Muertos, Day of the Dead in November.

Balloons, tissue paper flowers and of course fireworks are other sights and sounds that we experience not only at fiestas but spontaneously, sometimes for no reason that is apparent.

The photo below was not taken by me but an unknown person experiencing the Semana Santa, Easter,
festivities that last over two weeks. The ubiquitous tissue paper flowers flutter over the doorway.  These are seen all over town when their is a festival in a colonia.  The draping around the nicho with the cross was part of the ceremony when the Stations of the Cross were said and honored during Semana Santa.On the shelf are flowers and on the street is chamomile.  At the largest parades, not only is their chamomile, but flower petals and other fragrant leaves so that as the participants in the processions walk on it, the fragrance permeates the area.  A lovely experience.

And, of course, the Roman soldier who is participating in this procession.  There are many of them who are honored to be asked and participate.  Often, I'm told, that they started out as children in the choir in these
processions.  Each year some other role can be theirs until the greatest honor is to be asked to portray
Jesus on Good Friday.  Quite a sight and tradition.

Even though I have been in San Miguel for many, many years, it still enthralls me to walk out the door and be in another world.  The surreal world of Mexico, where I am welcomed unequivocally.

Viva Mexico!

Wednesday, May 03, 2017

Feast of Santa Cruz

Every festival in Mexico seems to begin with fireworks.  Today is the same.  The fireworks began early this
morning - mostly in the distance, although there have been a few very close.

Today is the Feast of Santa Cruz.  The Sacred or Holy Cross, or in some countries it is referred to as, the May Cross.

Here in Mexico it is organized by Guilds and Unions of construction workers.  Each building, house or commercial building, is topped out with a construction cross.  At least that is the way here in San Miguel and I imagine it is the same all over the country.  After all, this celebration was brought to New Spain by the Spaniards.  If one ever doubts that this was at one time, New Spain, just look at the calendar of feast days and celebrations.  Then compare them to the Spain of today and you will see the absolute similarities.

Above is the construction cross that was made by the workers probably about thirty or more years ago when these two houses were built by two brothers.  It is not a fancy cross or even a pretty one.  But it
sits in a place of prominence in the garden.  I usually have blooming flowers around it.  Or something to enhance it.  I like the fact that you can tell it is handmade and old.

There have been processions through the streets of San Miguel since last weekend with crosses decorated with flowers and candles.  More handmade crosses.  Today the construction workers decorate the construction crosses with flowers and candles on the job sites, then have lunch on site and a few drinks.
Coca-cola, mescal and tequila, to name a few.  The lunch is supposed to be provided by the owner of the construction site.

In other countries throughout the world, especially Malaysia, Bolivia and even Taos, New Mexico there are celebrations and ceremonies.  Most are much grander then our celebration here.  It was amazing to go to Wikipedia and find out some of the history of this day.  Truly surprising.

Emperor Constantine of Spain had a cross made, after he had an apparition one night while in battle, of a cross.  He carried the cross at the front of his soldiers and won the battle. This caused him to convert to Christianity. His mother Helena, who later became Saint Helena was asked to go to Jerusalem to look for the Holy Cross that Jesus died on.  She went and found the wisest men who led her to the site of the crucifixion where after much digging she found two pieces of wood with bloodstains on them.  She took those small boards, placed them on dying people, and they recovered.  She returned to Spain with this story and crosses were made all over Spain in honor of the Holy Cross.

Information also states that in Guatemala, there was already a feast around the beginning of May in pre-hispanic times to ask for rain.  The Spaniards, when converting the indigenous, rolled the Feast of Santa Cruz into the celebrations of the people.

In Taos New Mexico there are major ceremonies at various reservations.  I have witnessed these and been there as they have their corn dances and their ceremonies to ask for rain.  Isn't it interesting that the indigenous ceremonies worldwide are often very similar to each other?

In my little hill top retreat today the birds are very quiet.  The fireworks have stunned them to silence.
Me too.

Viva Mexico!

Monday, May 01, 2017

Surreal and Sensational Sunsets

 Now that Semana Santa (Easter) is over in San Miguel, there is more time to enjoy nature and the calm and tranquil existence that we live here. 

Each night, lately, at about 8PM the show begins.  Of course, no two sunsets are alike.  But the ones that
have been descending upon us have been totally breathtaking.

Since the wall of windows in my living room face West, it is a sight that I treasure.  I'm either witnessing the
sunsets from that room or up on the roof terrace.  It is worth the hike up the stairs to sit in wonder to see
what the skies provide.
 Sometimes the color is so intense, as in the photo above, that you cannot see the ridge of the mountains in the distance.
This photo taken from up on the roof reflects the pink sky in the reservoir down in the canyon.  Shortly before I took this photo, a huge flock of white ibis flew in formation from up in the Botanical Gardens back to the reservoir on the other side of town.  They are so prompt that you can almost set your watch by their flying each morning to the Botanical Gardens and then back in the evening.  It is so quiet up here at that time of the day that you can hear their wings, if you listen closely.

It is so amazing to experience all this beauty, almost on a daily basis.  This morning I was sitting drinking my coffee up on the roof terrace when a female Vermillion Flycatcher with a piece of stick in her mouth flew right under the roof covering and landed on the string of lights that hang up there - about three feet from where I was sitting.  She obviously did not see me for a few seconds, then she looked at me, dropped the stick and went to the jacaranda tree.  I almost wanted to apologize to her for being up there and startling her.

Life truly IS about the little things - don't you agree?