Sunday, May 22, 2016

Mexican Peso vs. US Dollar

In January 2016 someone told me that by the summer the peso would be in the 18 range.  I thought that was probably not possible, BUT, it is reality.  It has been for about ten days.

Today the peso is 18.35 to the dollar.  Now, if you go to an exchange house or bank that will not be what your exchange rate will be unless you're a prime customer.  The bank makes money off this situation.

But, for us "foreigners" as the Mexican government refers to us, it is a good day for us.  For our Mexican neighbors, not so much.  Obviously their pesos buys less.

When I moved here the peso hovered between and 8 and 9 pesos to the dollar.  In essence, it is as though somehow I've gotten a pay raise.

Except for the fact that when the peso declines, the prices go up to make up for the decline.  Still in all, it is
amazing how much 200 pesos (about $10USD) will buy in Mexico.

I know when I go to  Texas this coming week that I will suffer sticker shock the whole time I'm there.
Whether I"m dining out, shopping or whatever, I'll inwardly be cringing at the prices.  Hence I'll only
buy what I need to bring back.  Things such as food products that I use in cooking that I still cannot
get in Mexico along with some US fabric for sewing for a project that I want to make.  Those things
among a few others.

Possibly the low peso might have something to do with all the new manufacturing plants that are opening near San Miguel.  Although I doubt it because those projects are typically a 3-5 year project in the works before fruition.  Three new plants here are from Germany, all clean manufacturing for the aerospace and automotive industries. 

I noticed the last time I was in Guadalajara that there were welcoming flags and billboards that welcomed Lufthansa to Guadalajara!  At that time there was talk of non-stop flights to Germany.  Now that makes sense as I've discovered that Germany is investing heavily in Mexico.

Add to that, Hyatt announced a flock of new projects in Mexico.  One, an "extended stay" hotel in Mexico City, will be located adjacent to the ABC Hospital facilities.  This hospital complex was just named one of the top ten in the world along with the Texas Medical Center which was named #1.  It's good to know that there is a medical facility of that stature in Mexico.

Mexico is changing daily.  Foreign investment has surged over the last fifteen years and I imagine a day when it will be hard to travel the back roads and find indigenous villages that have not been impacted by the outside world. Thankfully over forty years ago, I was able to visit many of those magnificent places.

No more need to buy gasoline when you see a "No fumar" sign.  Pemex is building at a rapid rate.  In fact, US gasoline companies are coming in to build stations!  Hard to imagine, truly.  Never thought I would hear or see that in my lifetime in Mexico.  The photo above was taken about 20 years ago while driving to Ixtapa and there were no gas stations for about four hours.  I was thrilled to be able to stop at this makeshift place for gas on the side of the road.  The sign "Peligrosa" and the plastic containers told me that it was gasoline!

It certainly, IMHO, is no longer a ""third world"  country!.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Ted, Jennifer and Me

Today is always a difficult day.  It is the anniversary of my daughter's passing on May 18, 2004.  I dread its arrival and always question what I intend to do that day. There never seems to be a good answer.

Usually I'm in Texas.  Often I've been able to spend the day with my grandson, Christopher, who was Jennifer's son.  He will turn 18 in September.  Amazing. 

Today, however, I'm in San Miguel.  I had intended to be in Houston, but plans changed and it will be next week before I arrive there.

In the meantime, yesterday I went through the basket of Jennifer's mementos that I am saving for Christopher.  This photo was in the basket.  It's a photo of my husband, myself and Jennifer in Biloxi, Mississippi on the beach.  It was taken by my mother-in-law who was a dear soul.  It's a photo that I had never seen until shortly before Jennifer's passing.  Jen had a large size of it framed and hanging on her wall.  It is a treasure for me.  I have the larger photo that was Jennifer's where I can see it daily.

There are many color photos of us as a family with Jennifer, John and Julie, but there is something about this photo that is ethereal to me.  Other worldly.

Ted died in 1978 and Jennifer, as I said, in 2004.  Hopefully they are walking the beaches of another dimension together.  I like to think so.

Their spirits live on.  If I told you all the weird things that seem to happen from time to time, you would shake your head (if you don't believe in that sort of thing) and wonder if I was losing it.  But, I know in my heart of hearts, it is their spirits reminding me that they are not far away.  It is very comforting.

My son John has many of my husband's mannerisms.  And he looks like him.  From time to time, he'll say or do something that almost takes my breath away.  It is the personification of my husband, Ted.  What a gift!
No I don't mention it to John.  I don't want him to be self conscious of those times.

In addition, my oldest granddaughter Jessica has several mannerisms and looks of Jennifer's.  Life is ironic, isn't it?

And, so it goes.  Life continues..............

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Matilda and Grammy Visit Jose Marin

A couple of weeks ago before the big theatrical production of Academia International, Matilda and I paid a visit to Jose Marin's salon on Nunez.  The purpose was a little trim of her hair at her request.  Speedily this was planned when my son mentioned that he thought he could cut her hair.  My response was an adamant, "No".

So off we went to her appointment for a little trim.  The following photos tell it all.
 Jose said it would be better to shampoo her hair before trimming it.  Having never had this done before
Mati was thrilled.
 She became a bit serious as this proceeded, but the gentleness of the shampoo was fun for her, she told me.
 In deep discussion, Jose and Matilda discussed the fact that her hair on one side was longer then on the other side.  How could that have happened?  But, after discussing how much to cut the cutting began.
 Then he gently began to blow dry her hair.  She again was pretty serious.  I guess wondering what was going to happen next!
 And, then, when she saw herself in the mirror, it was a studied gaze.  I'd love to know what she was thinking.

 But, the serious gaze did not last long as he finished up and she was happy for all that had been done
to her beautiful hair.
This little eight year old girl was one happy camper.  Jose Marin is a delight to know and was so gentle and
kind with Matilda.   Matilda literally skipped down the street when we left.  She was so happy!  I was overjoyed to have been with her to see all of this.

Now, if I could just convince Sebastian to let Jose cut his hair like he cuts his Dad's hair - ALL would be well.  One of these days, maybe.

Memories are made of this!

Sunday, May 15, 2016

VIP CLUB CARD - San Miguel de Allende, Mexico

Often, we "locals", take for granted all the benefits we have in San Miguel.  We fail to share the information on these benefits with the "newbies" in town - as anyone who has not been here for a couple of years is thought of.  It's not out of a desire to not share.  We just have used certain services for so long, it does not typically come up in conversation.

ENTER Stage Left, Lou Christine.   Lou can be seen shuffling around town in his docksiders either looking for new customers or new businesses to add to the roster of services covered by the VIP card.

Lou is not a hard sell guy.  He'll mosey over, sit down on the bench, launch into conversation, but, somewhere in the middle of it, ever so gently, he'll mention that possibly you have not renewed your card.
IF you don't have the money right then for a new card, if he knows you, he'll say, "Well take the card and I know you're good for paying me later".  And, you do.

You do because this card is GREAT!  I have had one, I think, for the 16 years I've been here.  Lou and I arrived about the same time.  The card was his brainchild.  He's a brainy kind of guy who is a writer, an entrepreneur and just fun to be around.  He grew up on the streets of Philly and at some point lived in Hawaii.  I think his laid back attitude came from Hawaii as every time I've been in Philadelphia, a city I love a lot, no one was laid back.  At least not like Lou.

Back to the card though.  Not only are there a gazillion of restaurants who accept the card, but many services from cleaners, doctors, hair salons, etc etc etc.  The whole list, and it is a long one, is on the website.  Go to   to see all the details to get a card, who offers discounts through the card and just to get all the information.  In my case, the annual fee is paid for in a couple of months from all the discounts offered by places that I frequent.

Lou will be happy.  I will be happy to have told you about the card.........and most importantly, YOU will
be happy.  PLEASE if you decide to get a card, let Lou know I sent you.  You know, neighbors helping neighbors kinda thing.

Happy days!

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Gorgeous George, Arthur Godfrey and My Grandmother

Recently there were some wrestling characters on television.  Something about one of them, maybe his flamboyance or mannerisms, reminded me of Gorgeous George.  A name or person I had not thought of in probably fifty years.

And, if you've got Gorgeous George on your mind, you've got to have Arthur Godfrey as well, as they both connect to my grandmother in the 50's, referred to as Nana.

In a past post on sewing scissors, I wrote about my mother's mother who was a beautiful designer and seamstress.  This post is about my Dad's mother.  Two women were never more different in this life.

My grandmother who was the seamstress was tiny and petite.  You can see by the photo below that my Dad's mother was neither of those things.  She was a force to be reckoned with at all times.  My grandfather did not even try!  In his own loving, quiet way though, he did win once in a while!  More on that farther down the page...........

In the early to mid 1950's my father, mother, myself and my little brother Bill, lived with these grandparents while our new house was being built in Chicago.  The memories I have still make me smile.  So many, but there are two that really stand out.

When my grandmother ironed, she had a dish of radishes at the end of the ironing board to munch on and the radio turned on to Arthur Godfrey.  This was his mid-morning show.  We knew not to go into the kitchen and interrupt her.  It was HER time!  She talked back to him, nodded her head or shook her head and laughed at him.  It was like her best friend was in the room.  We marveled from the doorway..........and never commented about it to her.

It was the heyday of Arthur Godfrey and if I'm not mistaken he was on multiple times on many shows, so back then he was THE friend of all.  Quite a lot of information about him and his leading edge radio and TV shows back in the early days.

Then enter Gorgeous George.  Now my grandmother was pretty much a sedate person, except when ironing.......and except when wrestling was on the little TV in their TV room which was probably 8 x 8.

Astonished could hardly describe my reaction when at the age of 10, I heard my grandmother hollering and yelling at the TV screen as Gorgeous George headed to the ring.  It was not the person I had known for ten years of my life.  This was a whole other person.   Now it makes me laugh because I remember that back in the day when I loved to watch college football, I too, would yell at the TV screen.

It is interesting how things come full circle as it appears that wrestling has had a major resurgence and of course, we all have those talk shows now, on TV and I suppose on radio, that people listen to or watch regularly.  My grandmother was just part of the first Golden Age...........

I don't know what "age" this is, but those same things evidently still occur.

It was amazing to go on the internet and read about Gorgeous George and Arthur Godfrey.  They both were ahead of their times.  Their accomplishments were many along with the fact that many of the people in their fields were influenced by their methodology and character.

Indeed, I too was influenced by my grandmother who was stoic, kind and lived a full and joyful life.  She loved the above, but she also raised cacti, violets and had parakeets.  As you can imagine, those three things are lovely in and of themselves, but should not be put together.

Well, my grandfather took great, great pleasure in letting the parakeets out of their cages every time my grandmother left the house to go play bridge!  She would say (and I can hear it), "Edward, whatever you do, don't let the parakeets out because they get in my violets!"  Wham, the door would close and before she could get out to Giddings St. in Chicago, those parakeets were having a field day - in the violets. 

I was always in bed and asleep by the time she came home, so I have no idea what the repercussions were of those escapades.  I can only imagine.

That summer that we lived with my grandparents several other things happened that I still remember clearly.
Eisenhower running for President.  My first political convention to see on TV.  My little brother got bitten by a dog that was never caught and had to have rabies shots.  AND, the big AND, I discovered how babies
came about.  I remember walking around the house looking at my grandparents and parents and thinking,
"They did THAT four times!"  Ahhhh, the innocence of youth.

All of this causes me to pause and reflect as to what will be the memories that my seven grandchildren will have of me.  What will be their impression of the life I've lead? What will be their favorite memory?  Of course I hope they will remember me with a smile and lots of fun memories.  Of times of snuggling or being at the beach or playing baseball together.  Whatever.  I certainly treasure my memories. 

What about you?  What are your favorite memories of your grandparents?

Tuesday, May 03, 2016

Faces in the Garden

When I posted the blog about all the stucco work being done to the house, there was a photo of the wall with the little face pots from the State of Michoacan and the Village of Tzinzunzhan.  (If you say that fast, it
will sound like the wings of a hummingbird).  I've been told that Tzinzunzhan means that in the Purepecha
language, the place of hummingbirds.  It is a stunningly beautiful place.

One of the loyal readers commented and asked where they could find those face pots and I responded with the information above.  Then, I started thinking about all the faces in the garden in various places.  Most hold plants but a few, surprisingly, are alive.

 Just the other day, a noise came from the garden.  Rustling in the plants.  I turned around from what I was doing and was greeted by two pair of yellow eyes.  The incorrigible black feral cat who can leap five feet in the air to catch a bird!  Yes, I saw that with my own eyes.  And a grey cat perched in a flower pot.  Now I know why no flowers I plant in that side of the pot survive.  It was a great mystery.  Mystery solved.  She is laying on a newly planted bunch of alyssum.  I'm sure it is a nice soft bed.
 Then this morning as I was out pruning and plucking dead leaves, I bent down and was astounded to
see this magnificent butterfly.  Quickly I backed away and hurried down two flights of stairs to get my camera in hopes of being able to photograph this lovely creature.  It was still there when I returned and I snapped this photograph a little too quickly.  Hence it is not a sharp image.
 Strolling the garden though, besides the live faces, there are many others.  Most have a story behind them.

This lady came with me from Houston.  She is so heavy that I have to scoot her rather then attempt to pick her up.  I bought her at an auction at least twenty years ago.  Watching her and the hummingbirds on the salvia is a gift every day.
 This guy had a brother, but he eventually gave up the ghost and so now he hangs with a plant all by himself on the exterior wall of the guest house.
 Cantera angels are in many places.  At Christmas this trio wear red velvet ribbons in greetings for all that come to share the holidays. The rest of the year they just guard the door to the kitchen.
 This little boy is a treasure.  He has been in my life for about twenty five years.  He has moved all over Houston with me from garden to atrium garden to outdoor garden and then made the trip to San Miguel.
He was carefully wrapped in a bunch of towels to make the trek here.  He traveled by car - just to be safe.  For a while he lived in the home of my daughter Jennifer's house in Houston.  She adored him as much as I.  That is one of the many reasons why he proudly stands in the main garden here in San Miguel which is in honor of Jennifer.  In this garden, all the flowers are in white.  A color she loved.
                                     This angel playing the accordion is also in Jennifer's garden.
 More faces from Michoacan.  This guy does not look particularly happy.  Maybe the burro tail plant is not his favorite or maybe he is tired of hanging on the wall across from............
 This lovely lady wearing earrings.  Where did they come from?  Michoacan.  There is a very tiny little market on Friday mornings in Patzcuaro where very few tourists ever go.  It is one of my most favorite in Mexico.  I have been known to make the three hour drive just to be able to go to that little market.  I always find things that are one of a kind.  See things that touch my heart and leave, always, with a smile on my face.
 These are more of the face pots that I posted last week in the blog that I referred to at the beginning of this post.  I cannot remember the name of the woman who makes these.  The information is here in the house - somewhere - and a Purepecha woman took me to her home.  Where that home is, I could not begin to tell you as it has been about 20 years ago.  But, these can be found at the Palm Sunday Market in Uruapan each year and possibly at the straw market in Tzinzunzan.
 This lady has traveled with me for a very, very long time.  Initially she was in my house for many, many years.  Created by Hayes Parker, a world renown artist who creates in concrete, it was a birthday gift.
She has aged well.  Better then me.  I can see her from my bedroom as she resides now in the downstairs garden with mandevilla, bougainvillea and sprengeri fern surrounding her.
Last, but certainly not least, is this magnificent gift sent to me by Bill LaCivita, an artist from Rhode Island.  His creations are magnificent.   Bill is a reader of the blog.  He wrote and said he was creating a goddess for me!  I was flabbergasted.  Indeed she arrived in Houston amidst many oohs and aahs from me as I unwrapped her.  She now resides in the garden outside my bedroom where I gaze at her daily.  If you are interested in purchasing some of Bill's work, google him and you will find information.  This lady has been with me six or seven years.  She is a joy with her shells and accoutrements.  I love her dearly.

So, that's it.  Never a worry that I'm lonely as a single woman.  I have plenty of company all over the gardens and in view from the inside of the house.  Now, if they could all talk, it would be a roar I'm afraid.
Thankfully not.  They exist just because of their beauty.  How nice..........

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Little by Little

Patience is absolutely necessary to live in Mexico!  It had been a mission all my life to be so, but it never worked.  Well, at least until I moved to Mexico.  Within a year, patience was my middle name.

IF one is not patient about everything, one might as well get a big supply of TUMS or learn how to chant to get over one's frustrations.  It is so much easier to realize that nothing is worth the previous path just mentioned.  It's all small stuff.

Take the exterior of my house.  The brick wall that faces north had never been stuccoed.  There is no insulation or drywall or anything in the construction of these houses.  The walls are one brick thick!
Therefore, dust, noise and even a trickle of water from a hard rain will soak into the brick.

Many times in the past, I could lay in my bed and hear a conversation at night on the other side of the wall where lovers park........

For about the last fifteen years, I've gently asked the people that I rent this house from to stucco the wall.

Finally at the end of 2015, I sent an email detailing the four things that really needed attention.  Stuccoing the wall being #1.  The first part of March the landlord appeared with his son to interpret and we went over the four things.  He said they would start in two weeks.  Last Tuesday, in April,  he telephoned and said they would come with the scaffolding and materials to start the next day.  I did not get too excited!  But, they did show up....amazingly.  Here is the result of three and a half days of work. Two of the four things are completed.  There is hope.

The stucco has to "cure" or dry for about eight days before it can be painted.  That's okay, I've waited fifteen years. It will be the same color as the front of the house. That is when the painter appears.  I'm thrilled.
 While the stucco man was here and the landlord was paying, I had him stucco this wall above the laundry sink or gardening sink.  Now I'm debating if I want to tile it, if so with what. Or if I want to have a mural painted there or just paint it and cover it with blooming vines.
Lots of these blooming mandevillas or a mixture of that and other vines would be pretty in big pots.  My mind is reeling.  What do you think?  I had about ten design books out last night looking at how to do rubbled (broken) tile walls with a design or basic tile or whatever.  What fun!

In the meantime, when all is dry, I'll have the painter come to paint it the tropical green color that is in the covered seating area.
As you can see, the wall area here was previously an orangey, mango color.  Now it is just a mess.  I had forgotten what a mess construction areas can become.  At least a full day has been spent cleaning up concrete and mess in preparation for painting and getting flower pots and things back in place.

The flowers and shrubs and trees are really now starting to bloom.  It has been a month since we had SNOW.  But, we have also had two nice rains so the photos below show how things have returned to life.
By summer it will be lush and tropical up on this little roof of paradise.

This afternoon, now that everything has been cleaned up, reading on the roof terrace with views of the mountains and canyon sounds like a good idea.  Don't you agree?