Thursday, February 28, 2008

Today was something completely different. No cycle ride to the estuary; no meditation on the beach. I had told Maria I would go into Guaymas this morning with the cooking class. This is the third time I've made that trip with her class, and I've been to the mercado many times on my own, so I don't really need to go - but I enjoy Maria's company, and I meet some interesting people by going to the classes. Today, there were only four of us - quite a change from the 28-30 in the last class! Being such a small group, we didn't go straight to the mercado - we stayed on the bus a few blocks longer, so Maria could show us the plaza and the kiosko. We saw the church in the background, but didn't go in. Chantal and I took the bus to this area last year (there are photos back there somewhere), and it was fun to see it all again.

Our group walked back to the market. On the way, we encountered friends of Maria who, it turns out, have just opened a Keop's in San Carlos. (Remember Keop's? That's the place where you can't just get a cup of coffee.) Then we did the obligatory circuit of the market, visit to the tortilleria, peek at the taqueria next door. This time, nobody ate tacos, because it was a little too early in the day. With our purchases in hand, we caught the bus back to San Carlos.

I decided to make guacamole for this afternoon's salsa party - and also to do a dried chile salsa, because I had never actually run my dried chile salsa past Maria (sheer cowardice). I made the salsas, put them away, and went over to get Sadie the dog for her afternoon walk. I found the area around her rv in an uproar. She was locked inside. The air conditioning was on, so she was in no danger, but she really wanted to come out, mostly because of the small crowd gathered around. Unfortunately, Sandy's husband Ray had the rv keys in his pocket, and he was nowhere to be found. Sandy knew he had been up at Tony's with a couple of other men from the park, but apparently the three of them had gone off somewhere (and why not?)

Meanwhile, a very unpleasant man from the next row of rvs had come over and given Sandy a hard time about the noise the dog was making. (I could barely hear Sadie from time to time, if I listened carefully, but she certainly wasn't making a lot of noise.) This guy was quite irate, and Sandy was really, really upset. Along with a couple of other neighbours, I tried to reassure her, but she was pretty spooked. Marcie and I got into Marcie's car and drove up the road, checking inside all the bars and restaurants, to no avail. A few minutes after we got back, suddenly Ray and his buddies turned up. Sandy called Ray over and told him what she had been going through, and Ray headed over to confront the evildoer. I went home to get my salsas and head to the palapa for the salsa party - a much safer place to be, I thought.

The party was fun. The four of us all tasted and enjoyed each other's salsas, and we chatted for an hour or so. My tongue is still intact, because I haven't tasted thirty different salsas this afternoon.

Speaking of tasting, I've had pozole twice in two days, now. Yesterday, I went to JJ's (a fun and very informal outdoor "tacos y cosas" place up the street). I was with Roger and Terry, but they had gone over to the pharmacy across the road, and would be following me. So I walked up to JJ's. JJ himself came toward me, crying "I need you!" Then he threw his arms around me and said again, "I need you!" "Well, thank you, JJ..." I started to say, and then he said "I need your money!" I started to laugh, joined by all the people at the nearby tables. A visit to JJ's is always an interesting experience. The pozole was great.

Whenever Maria takes her class to the market, she buys a serving of pozole-to-go from a particular vendor, so today I did the same, to compare his pozole to JJ's. I decided I like JJ's better, but I'm itching to work up a recipe of my own. Pozole, in case I haven't told you this before, is a pork and hominy soup with a chile broth. It's absolutely delicious.

Roger, Chantal, and Terry all seem to be feeling better, due, I imagine, to the amoxicillin they started taking yesterday. This is good, because Roger, Terry, and Robin are going to go diving with Russell tomorrow, first thing in the morning. I have two loaves of banana bread in the oven, to send along to the guys who own the boat. They really liked my banana bread last year, so I thought I'd send some home to their families.

Hey, the guys are going to be gone all day tomorrow. Chantal and I should think of something interesting to do while they're gone. I think I feel a window shopping trip coming on.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Here I am, still in San Carlos. I had several days of internet problems, and now we are all fighting the flu again, but otherwise, everything is fine here. The weather has taken a turn for the warmer - up in the 30s - Celsius, of course - during the day. Fortunately, it cools down quite nicely as soon as the sun goes down, so we can sleep comfortably. Tomorrow I'm off to Guaymas again. I think I'll replace my most-used cazuela now, lest it wear out when I'm not here to replace it. I know they're supposed to last a long time, but I would hate to be without it, now that I've become so dependent.

So what has happened in the last week? It became mating season in birdland, so the sky is filled with screaming and swooping. A couple in the park went on a trip to Copper Canyon and left their dog behind. The folks behind them are doing most of the dogsitting, but I'm taking Sadie for a walk once a day.

I bought a ticket to the March 6 choral concert.

I found out that you can buy amoxicillin over the counter here. I haven't needed to do so, but I know I can.

There have been (pretty well) daily cycle rides to the estuary, walks on the beach, dolphin sightings - lots of those - and reading. Lots of reading.

What with not being able to read the boards, I entertained myself with Christopher Moore's Island of the Sequined Love Nun (Very.Funny.) I understand I may have read the best of his stuff now - Island and Bloodsucking Fiends: A Love Story. That's too bad.

Having greatly enjoyed We Were the Mulvaneys by Joyce Carol Oates, I picked up another of her books, Solstice. Somebody at the Minneapolis Star Tribune called it "a display of genius". I found it muddy.

Then I started reading something called What Girls Learn by Karin Cook. I had to go out shortly after I finished it, and my eyes were all swollen from crying. It was rather embarrassing. I wish I had had that book to read when I was a girl.

When I'm not indulging my love of novels, I'm working my way through a book that Maria lent me - Mexico - A History by Robert Ryal Miller.

One day I went into town - to the Ley plaza - to have my hair cut. I did some grocery shopping. At the far end of that plaza there's a little coffee place called Keop's. It's sort of a Starbucks wannabe. I decided to treat myself to a nice cup of coffee and start reading the book I had just picked up at the library (Solstice). I lugged my grocery bags down to the end of the hall, dumped them at a table and went up to the counter. "Cafe con leche, por favor" I said. The two young ladies behind the counter looked at each other, then at me. They seemed puzzled. "Quieres un latte?" one of them ventured. "No, no quiero un latte. Quiero un cafe. Con leche." More puzzlement. "Quieres un Americano?" Oh, for god's sake. "Si, esta bien. Un Americano, por favor. Con leche." At least they heated the milk. The Americano was good - but what ever happened to coffee? Plain old coffee. I can get it at the mercado in downtown Guaymas, and at the little restaurants here in San Carlos - but in these fancy-schmancy little "coffee" (you should pardon the expression) houses, there's no such thing as coffee. Sheesh.

End of rant.

As you can see, there's nothing spectacular happening here. I've developed the habit of sitting on the beach for a few minutes' meditation every day. That's been great. We've been here long enough now that I don't feel as if I have to be doing something all the time. I'm reminded of my neighbour back in Bahia Kino who said "Every day I start out with nothing to do, and by the end of the day, I've just about finished."

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Before I tell you about yesterday, I should mention that the night before last, we had a Close Encounter of the celestial kind. The space station and the space shuttle flew overhead, one right behind the other, and we all craned our necks to watch them for the minute and a half or so that they were visible. I heard on the news today that the shuttle had landed, so I guess the space station is on its own. Tonight there's supposed to be a lunar eclipse, so it will be another sore neck night, but worth it. We're going to have a barbecue so that we're all outside to watch.

Yesterday morning, Robin and I cycled to the estuary and then we walked along the path between the dune and the mangroves. Usually we hear a lot of bird sounds, but they're all of the strangling, throttling "Gack! Aargh!" variety - herons, gulls, egrets, and such. This was different. There was a songbird in the mangrove somewhere, and he was yelling "Sweet! Sweet! Sweet!" I never did see him, so I don't know what he was, but I did enjoy listening to him.

As I write, there's a bright red balloon wafting around under the table. I brought it home from Toro's last night, after my birthday party.

We were going to go to Froggy's for 2/1 pizza night, but somehow Toro's seemed like a more festive idea. It was. Chantal and I went over early in the day and made reservations for 5:30. Chantal told Luis the waiter that it was my birthday.

The five of us arrived at the restaurant, only to find that it was almost empty. We were told to sit wherever we liked, so I took the big table (for eight) at the far end of the restaurant, under the television. We asked Laura the waitress to turn the sound down, but instead she turned the tv off and turned the mariachi music on. Cool.

I ordered molcajete de pollo, same as the last time. Robin ordered fish, which came wrapped in foil that was shaped like a swan. Chantal got scampi, and both Roger and Terry asked for chicken fajitas. It was happy hour, so everybody got two of everything (margaritas, beers, wine) except for the birthday girl. I had asked for agua con gaz (soda water), so I only got one. Hmmph.

Soon, Luis appeared with French onion soup for everybody (because it's a special occasion, he said) and then our delicious meals came. At the end, I told Luis that I wanted a container for what was left of my molcajete, because I wanted to save room for flan. He disappeared, and a little old man with a guitar showed up. He had castanets in his right hand, and somehow he played the guitar and clicked the castanets at the same time.

After the little man had (sort of) played Happy Birthday for me, he prepared to launch into another song, but Luis, Laura, and the bartender (whose name I don't know) turned up just then. Laura was wearing a wig that appeared to have been made from bright blue Christmas tree tinsel. The bartender wore a hat that looked like a shower cap with ears. Luis wore a sombrero with a big red gift bow on the brim. He carried and played a guitar that didn't actually have any strings. First they threw the red balloon at me; then they showered me with confetti. Laura handed me my flan, in which was stuck a candle. She told me to make a wish and blow out the candle, but it was of the kind that won't go out. I finally had to dunk it in Robin's beer. They sang me a Mexican birthday song, then Happy Birthday. When I told Luis I was twenty-nine, he pointed to the bow on his hat and told me that he was my present. Cool, indeed!

There was more music and more laughter, and a fine time was had by all - especially me. As we left, I got hugs, handshakes, and "Felicidades!" from both Luis and Laura.

We came back to the park and I managed to call my sister for a little chat before Terry and Roger came to get me. I had agreed to walk up to Bananas to listen to a C&W band appearing there (I still don't know why I did that!), and it was time to go. We walked to Bananas, but there was no C&W band. It was just The Twins again. So we decided to see who was playing at Froggy's. Nobody was. No music at all. So we came home again, and that was the end of my birthday celebration, but I didn't mind. I had had a lovely day.

Monday, February 18, 2008

This morning, Robin and I were sitting on the wall over by the estuary, eating our grapefruit. That reminds me - I haven't told you about the grapefruit thing. Walter, who provides us with an endless supply of grapefruit and oranges from his friend's trees, taught Roger how to eat a grapefruit, and Roger taught us. All these years, I've cut grapefruit in half, put the halves in bowls, and carved out each little segment, preparing the fruit to be eaten with a spoon. Piffle, says Walter. Peel the damned thing and eat it, just as you would an orange. No kidding? So we tried it, and we liked it. Most mornings, when Robin and I cycle to the estuary, we pack a grapefruit in the backpack, and we share it as a seaside snack. I have become a fan of the grapefruit, now that it's not half a day's work to prepare it. I'm not sure what advantage Roger finds in this new system, as he insists on using his penknife and peeling off every last bit of the white underskin - and every last vitamin - before he'll eat the fruit. ;>)

So anyway, we were sitting there, eating our grapefruit, and a frigate bird flew over. We've seen a fair number of frigate birds here, but they're usually way up overhead, riding the thermals, scoping out the fish supply below. This one was flying quite low. We could make out a lot of detail on him. He wasn't staying over the water, either. He kept swooping over the palm trees just down the beach from us. One time, as he flew over, I saw him duck his head as if he were looking down inside the tree. A few minutes later, we saw that there was something dangling from his mouth. It looked like a lizard. There ensued a great drama. The lizard seemed to be stuck in the bird's throat. The bird would choke a bit (or so it appeared), try to swallow the lizard, fail, choke a bit more, then head over to the water. He would do a shallow dive, scoop up a little salt water - presumably to try to wash the lizard down - and fly back toward us again. Finally, when I had got to the point of shouting "Either swallow the thing or spit it out! Sheesh!" I think he managed to get it down, because he flew off, out to sea. I don't think frigate birds are supposed to eat lizards.

The rest of my day (to this point) has been an exciting round of laundry, laundry, and more laundry. I finally remembered that it's much easier to ride my bike to the laundry room with the clothes in a backpack - even though it takes several trips - than it is to drag the stuff over there and back on foot, so that's what I've been doing. It's all finished now, for another week.

Oh, no - in between trips to the laundry room, I decided to make the Chinese curry sauce I had found online. I brought the recipe up on the computer, left it sitting here on the table, and read it from the kitchen. That was not very bright of me. The recipe called for flour and curry powder - two tablespoons of each. So I thought, anyway. I heated oil, added chopped garlic and ginger, then tossed in the flour/curry mixture and started to stir. "Allow it to bubble", said the recipe. Bubble? It's too dry to bubble. Uh-oh. I came back to the table and double-checked the recipe. It actually called for two tablespoons of flour and two teaspoons of curry powder. I quickly poured in a lot more olive oil, chopped a couple of cherry tomatoes that needed to be used anyway and tossed them in, added a handful of raisins and some bottled chicken broth. And a bit of cinnamon. And a teaspoonful of sugar. And water - a lot more than I had expected to add.

The result of all this panicked effort was not bad at all. Having added all those chunky bits, I put the sauce into the blender and whizzed it smooth. When I put the prawn curry together tonight, I'll put some extra ginger and garlic in, to make the proportions closer to what they should be. If I had a spoonful of peanut butter, I'd throw that in - or some coconut milk - but as it is, it's still better than the canned stuff , if I do say so myself.

Robin has just come back from kayaking, so I can get his opinion. I think we're going to be packing pounds and pounds of curry powder next year!

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Yesterday was such a full day, I was actually exhausted at the end of it. The Rescate bazaar started at 9 o'clock in the morning, so Robin and I skipped our cycle ride out to the estuary, in order to get to the bazaar fairly early. Roger, Chantal, Terry and I rode out there in the truck, and Robin followed on his bike. He never did join us at the bazaar. I gather he kept going to the marina and enjoyed a cup of coffee at a sidewalk cafe. The rest of us wandered around the bazaar. I bought a few raffle tickets, but I didn't actually buy any jewelry or anything else that was on display. Chantal found a couple of lovely necklaces that I wish I had seen. There was an art display by the same group that had a sale next door a couple of weeks ago. There was lots of jewelry, a table of baked goods (oh, yes, I did buy cookies. Chocolate chip/pecan. Yum.) All the money was to go to Rescate, the ambulance service.

We stopped at the supermarket on the way home, because it was Saturday, and Saturday is chicken day. Of course, I remembered later that there was something I had forgotten, so I walked back to the supermarket and Tony's at about 2:30.

We had tickets for the Dixieland concert out at the San Carlos Plaza Hotel at 4 o'clock in the afternoon. At 3:30 we all piled into the truck and drove out there. I'm glad we didn't leave it any later, because there was a good crowd. Did I mention this concert before? I did say to Robin that I was surprised that he had bought me a ticket, because "I'm really only good for about five minutes of Dixieland." How ungracious of me. I just didn't want him to be surprised if I developed a headache and had to leave in the middle of the concert. As it turned out, I had a wonderful time. The group was called The Original Wildcat Jass Band. (Yes, those are esses). The banjo player/vocalist is Rob Wright, who was part of the Christy Minstrels. He has also performed with the Moody Blues, Ray Charles, Sammy Davis Jr., and others, according to the programme. Dr. Kelland Thomas plays soprano sax and Dr. Kelly Thomas plays the tuba. They are both on the faculty of the University of Arizona. Dan Kruse is on drums. The trumpeter is a newcomer to the group. His name is Jason Carter, and he is incredible. They played the St. James Infirmary Blues, and I was hooked. Everybody in our group had a great time, as did everybody I talked to after the show. The encore was "When the Saints Go Marching In," which had almost everybody up out of their chairs.

Much satisfied, we came home, made dinner, ate, cleaned up, and prepared to go to Bananas, a bar up the street where The Twins were playing. Roger had talked to them about Terry's guitar playing talent, and they had offered to let him sit in with them for part of the evening. Chantal had had enough for the day, so she stayed home. Roger, Terry, his guitar and I walked to the bar for 8 o'clock. Robin followed a bit later, on his bike.

My only complaint about this part of the evening was that the bar was full of smoke. From time to time, I would take my enormous glass of lemonade and go stand outside, with my foot blocking the door a bit open, so I could still hear the music. When The Twins finished their first set, they gave the microphone to Terry, and he performed a few songs. When they came back, he played a bit more with - if I remember correctly - the drummer backing him. Then the original group took over again. Around 10 o'clock, the style of the music changed. Instead of the country/Jimmy Buffet style music (in Spanish) and the cha-cha, samba etc., we had been hearing, it was pretty well all Mexican music, and the gringo dancers on the floor gave way to local people. It was all great fun to watch. The group itself is interesting. The lead guitarist and the drummer are identical twins. The rhythm guitarist is the son of one of them, and the bass player is the son of the other. The sons look almost as much alike as their fathers do.

Just before 11 o'clock, we started walking home, but a woman who is staying here at Totonaka offered us a ride, (Robin had left earlier, on his bike.) and we accepted gratefully.

It's a good thing our days here aren't all like that. I would need a vacation. But it was a good day.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Winter came in under cover of darkness. I didn't hear a thing, but I gather from Chantal that the waves pounded fiercely all last night. Today, Robin noted that the surf was still very high, and we both found our bicycle trip to the estuary delightfully cool. As the day progressed, we had occasional glimpses of sunshine, but mostly it was cloudy and cool and very windy.

I took Sadie, Caroline and Kim's dog, for a walk this afternoon. I'm going to be dog-sitting her in a few days, so we thought it best that she get used to walking with me. I think she was a bit baffled, but we both soldiered on, and everything worked out. The one tense moment came when I tried to get her to go up the steps, over the sea wall, and down the metal steps to the beach. Sadie wasn't having any of that. Finally, Roger and Blitzen went ahead of us, to show Sadie how it was done, and she followed, if reluctantly. We took pity on her on the return trip, and exited the beach via a little hole in the fence on the other side of the discotheque. Had I known about that hole, I wouldn't have made her climb the stairs in the first place. Caroline was very pleased that I had, though, and figures maybe Sadie will go up and down the stairs at home now. We wonder if she has a vision problem. Nobody is quite sure how old she is, but best guess is maybe eight or nine years old. She's probably a cross between a bearded collie and a Bouvier - or not.

Because I made curried chicken last night and we didn't eat it - we had had plenty of food at the Valentine's Day party - I only had to load the rice cooker, turn it on, and set the chicken to warm in a cazuela tonight. Such an easy dinner (at least the warming up part), and a great success. Better than the canned curry sauce, Robin said. High praise. Now I have to do curried prawns. I wish I had some coconut milk. And lime leaves. Maybe I'll grate a little lime zest into the sauce when I make it.

I forgot to tell you about Terry and the dentist. He had an appointment on Tuesday. It was supposed to be 2 1/2 hours long. I think the appointment was for 12:30. He left here before eleven in the morning, in case he had trouble finding the office again (He and Chantal and I had found it the week before, but Terry hadn't had to find it on his own). I figured he would be back between 3:00 and 3:30. About 4:30, Chantal asked me whether I had seen Terry. No - had he not come back? Nope. He turned up just after five o'clock. I asked Terry whether he had got lost. No, he had been in the dentist's chair all that time, and he was not happy. I guess his work was a little more complicated than the dentist had realized. He had another appointment yesterday, and he went, though I gather he would rather not have done so. I think he's had all the nasty stuff done now, and he just has to go back next week to get the permanent fixtures and have his teeth cleaned. I think he needs the week to recover. There haven't been any evening concerts for the last few days!

From time to time today, we've checked the tv weather reports. There's snow in southeastern Arizona at higher elevations, and rain in the lower places. Robin said it had snowed in San Diego, (California) but I haven't seen anything about that on the news. I shall not complain about our cool temperatures and wind.

So there you are. Another exciting day in Mexico.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

"What ever happened to Sandra?" I hear you ask. Well, I've had a severe case of Writer's Laziness, coupled with some technical difficulties, so it's been a while, and I may not be able to remember much beyond the day before yesterday. A couple of days this week, I wasn't feeling well, so I didn't get up to much anyway. Then there was the annual Tour of Homes on Tuesday. It cost 200 pesos per person. The money went to the Rotary Club. (Public education here is free only through grade six. After that, money is required for books, uniforms, and maybe tuition, though I'm not sure about that. The Rotary Club provides scholarships to help local kids get through secondary school).

So Chantal and I went on the tour. We hitched a ride to the country club with Joyce and her sister. At the country club, we were to get into one of the "buses" provided. The buses turned out to be cars, dozens of them. The drill was to wander up and down the lines of cars, asking at each one whether they had room for you (room for two, in the case of Chantal and me). We were unimpressed with the organization, but we looked forward to seeing the houses. The caravan did move out on time, to our surprise, and there ensued a tour of San Carlos - some of it was part of the plan, and some happened because the lead car got a bit lost! We didn't really mind that, because we saw parts of San Carlos that we didn't even know existed.

We visited six houses, all belonging to expatriate Americans. They were very grand. I felt terribly out of place. At a couple of the houses, I made the comment that I would much prefer to live in the guest quarters rather than in the main house. The second place we visited had an open plan on the ground floor. We went past the kitchen into the living room, looked to the left and saw the bedroom, which was sitting on a marble platform about three feet higher than the living room. There wasn't so much as a railing. If I lived there, I would get up in the middle of the night, head for the bathroom, and walk off the edge of the world. Of course, if I were lucky I would fall into the rec room instead of the living room, and land on the pool table. That would require a bit of a swan dive, though.

My favourite house was the last one, which I described to its owner as "immensely cheerful". There was colour everywhere - brilliant, brave colour - in the garden, in the paint on the walls, both interior and exterior, and in the tiles used not only on counters and in the central fountain, but as decorative elements on the walls. The lady of the house apparently makes and sells jewelry, and I look forward to seeing her work at the bazaar this coming Saturday.

Yesterday morning, Robin and I cycled up the road to check out the SBPA book sale in front of Sagittario. Apparently this sale takes place once a month, but I only found that out the other day - so I only get to attend one more this year. There's basically a front yard full of books "filed" in cardboard boxes on the ground. They're sorted by author's name, for the most part. The idea is that you wander around, picking up books, and when you've got all you want, you go to the desk and make a donation to the SBPA (the local spay/neuter group). Robin chose three books, and I chose eleven, greedy reader that I am. My find of the day was Island of the Sequined Love Nun, which I've actually been looking for. It's written by the same man who wrote Blood Sucking Fiends: A Love Story. I also got Looking Backwards by Colette and an old copy of Crime and Punishment in case I get to feeling really ambitious (or depressed). It was amusing to paw through the boxes and see books that I remember from my mother's bookshelves - not classics, just books like The Robe that were in fashion in the fifties and early sixties.

On the way home, we stopped and had breakfast at Rosa's Cantina for the first time. It was very good. Robin didn't feel well afterward - I think he's doomed to have only homemade food when we're in Mexico - but I felt fine. You see, he had sausages and eggs and toast and hash browns, whereas I had a poblano chile and cheese omelette with frijoles and tortillas and pico de gallo. When in Mexico.....

In the afternoon, there was Maria's cooking class. I hardly had time to breathe yesterday.

Today was the park's Valentine's Day party. I made quesadillas with corn tortillas, Chihuahua cheese, diced tomato and onion, and sausage. I think they went over well. Getting to the party on time was a bit of a challenge, because I had spent most of the day working on a chicken curry for dinner, and I left the quesadilla building to the last minute. The upshot of that was that by the time I got to the party and stood in line and finally got up to where the food was, I had missed Maria's Mexican Cheesecake. She says it's not actually Mexican, it's Texan, and she will try to give us the recipe. I gather it's not a dessert, as it contains chiles - but I could be wrong. I was watching the news from Tucson tonight, and the newscasters were sampling chocolate-covered jalapenos that had been sent to them by a company in Texas. One of them bit into her pepper and said "I sure hope these aren't hot". Oops.

That brings us up to date. Now I'm going to do a little work on the stuff over on the right side of the page. I've decided it would be a good idea to write a one-line description of each book I read, for some reason - so I'll do that. I'll also rate the books. Five stars would be Rohinton Mistry's A Fine Balance. I've never read a more wonderful book, so I'll use that as my benchmark. Also, it occurred to me this morning that I should start a new list - of all the things I should remember to bring with me to Mexico, but usually forget. Like turmeric. Who thinks of turmeric when she's packing? Not I - but it would be very handy. Garam masala, too, and sweet paprika. Mostly spices on this list-to-be, at least so far.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

I think my fingers have unstiffened enough now that I can type. I've been outside, listening to Terry play and sing, and singing along, for hours. When people in various parts of the park heard the music, they started gathering and making requests. In the course of the party, I wore shorts, t-shirt and sandals, then added a cotton sweater. Then I swapped the shorts for a pair of jeans. After a while, I put socks on. Finally, there was nothing for it but to come inside for the night. The wind coming from the north was so cold, it felt as if there were snow in it. Chantal had long since brought out a quilt and wrapped herself up. It was ten o'clock anyway, and we're supposed to quiet down after ten - though I can't imagine why. Now we get to listen to the Thump Thump Thump of the disco across the street until three o'clock in the morning. They don't seem to be as loud as they used to be, though. I don't know whether their main sub-woofer is broken again, or whether somebody has finally threatened to close them if they don't keep the noise down. Whatever it is, I'll take it. Anyway, we closed down the party and came shivering into our various homes.

Robin didn't come outside for the party. I thought he was just involved in his book, but it turns out he's not feeling very well. I think maybe he's gotten too much sun in the last couple of days. Although it gets cold at night, the days have been getting more gorgeous all the time, and it's hard to be sensible about staying out of the sun.

Take yesterday. Robin and I cycled to the estuary in the morning. We didn't walk on the beach, but after brunch I walked up to the bank to buy a ticket for the Rotary Club's Tour of Homes this coming Tuesday. I intended to take the bus, but the bus didn't come right along, so I started walking. By the time the bus did come along, I was more than halfway to the bank, so I just kept walking. Then I came home, stopping at Tony's to buy prawns for last night's curry. There wasn't much point in catching the bus on that trip, because Tony's stand is just about halfway from the bank to home, and I have better ways to spend five pesos than on a piddly bus ride like that. So I ended up taking a fairly long walk in the noonday sun. Meanwhile, the guys had taken the kayaks and paddled around the estuary, so they got a lot of sun as well. I think Chantal was the only sensible one.

What else happened yesterday? Oh, yes. I had an e-mail from Kate to say that she and Dick and Tom had made it safely home.

This morning, when we got to the estuary, we met Caroline and Kim, and I walked to the end of the beach and back with them and their dog while Robin sat and watched the water and nursed a blister (I bought him a pair of Croc knockoffs in Hermosillo the other day, and that may not have been a good idea). I was glad I had taken that walk on the beach, though, because that was the extent of my exercise for the day. After lunch, I turned the cd player on (Bach) and fell into my book (We Were the Mulvaneys). I ended up finishing it. For a while, I sat inside to read, but then I moved the stereo outside and took my book out there, so I could enjoy the sunshine and still find out what happened to the Mulvaneys.

The temperature is supposed to go up to 79F tomorrow, so I anticipate another lazy day in paradise.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Well. I see that this is my 100th post on this blog - shouldn't I get a prize?

Tuesday’s trip to Hermosillo went beautifully. I tagged along with Roger and Chantal when they went to pick up Terry, Roger’s nephew. We did some shopping on the way home, and I am now the proud owner of my very own, brand-spanking-new Oster three-speed blender with a glass carafe and even a separate little plastic jar that fits onto the mechanism and serves some purpose I have yet to discover. It has a lid, so whatever I’m supposed to chop up in it, I guess I’m supposed to store it in there too. I’ll ask around. Maybe it’s for making baby food.

Neither Chantal nor I wanted to cook that night, so we went to dinner at Toro's, the restaurant at the Best Western - almost next door. Their specialty is called a molcajete, which means a mortar. (I bought one last year for grinding spices., and posted a picture of it on the March 11, 2007 entry. At the time, I thought it was a metate, but I was wrong.)

So anyway, last night I ordered molcajete con pollo, which turned out to be slices of chicken breast and cactus (nopale), green onions, and queso fresco - all baked in and served in a molcajete with a perfectly delicious sauce. There were tortillas - both corn and flour - to go with it. The cheese must be put in at the last minute, because it was hot, but it was just beginning to melt. The molcajete, which was still piping hot from the oven, was presented on a tray, which was just as well. The onions etc. were draped over the edge of the molcajete, and the sauce had a regrettable tendency to lap over the edge as well. In all it was a messy experience, but I plan to go do it all over again - maybe I'll get the shrimp molcajete next time, and wear a bib. Absolutely fantastic. And I learned that I can cook in my molcajete!

I almost forgot to mention - I decided I liked Terry when he talked about people in certain hill country of his acquaintance. He said, "There's folks down there that can look through a keyhole with both eyes!" I think that was when the molcajete got really messy.

Terry has never been here before, so the last couple of days have been devoted to giving him a crash course in the scenery, shopping, and night life of San Carlos – including a trip today into Guaymas, lunch at our favourite taqueria, and a trip home on the local bus. Chantal and I are used to those bus trips by now, but Terry’s knuckles were a little bit white. He was a very good sport, though.

Yesterday, we all went to the estuary and walked on the beach. I think the guys are going to take the kayaks over to there tomorrow. Tonight, we barbecued burgers and sat outside, watching the day end. Terry had brought his guitar, so we had a little concert. Now he and Roger have gone to Bananas, a bar down the street, to have a drink and hear a band. I decided I’d had enough for the day, so I’ve stayed behind, and as it turns out, Robin and Chantal are also feeling done in, so it’s a quiet evening in both our houses.

Monday, February 04, 2008

I thought that after all that exercise yesterday, I would sleep right through the night, but no, I still woke up at about 2:30 in the morning and read for an hour. I think I'm okay with that, though. Days have been so busy, I haven't had as much time to read as I would like. That hour of snuggling into a book in the middle of the night is rather lovely. I'm reading We Were the Mulvaneys by Joyce Carol Oates. The narrative has a wonderful rhythm - I keep wanting to read it aloud. It is a great relief after Sophie's Choice. I'm not even sure why I finished that book. I was so annoyed with the narrator, I found myself asking aloud whether he was ever going to get on with it. Never mind. It's done.

This morning I got up and told myself Don't think about it, just to do it - too many Super Bowl ads, I guess. I'm thinking in adspeak. I showered and dressed and was ready to ride out with Robin. We cycled to the estuary, sat on the wall while we ate a couple of oranges, then took a walk down the beach to where the water goes into and out of the estuary. There we sat and stared at the waves and breathed. It was beautiful. Then we walked back to the bikes and rode home - with a stop at the bakery for fresh bread and chocolate eclairs (just in case we were burning too many calories with all this exercise). Oh, and speaking of Super Bowls, I watched the game yesterday - my first ever Super Bowl, if I'm not mistaken. I cheered for the Giants because they were the underdogs, and they won. I take full credit. I watched the last half of the game over at Roger and Chantal's, and I scared Blitzen when I cheered - so I sat on my hands after that.

I planned on a very busy day today - first the cycling (which Robin calls his Morning Patrol), then I had to cook some beans, as I was fresh out, and do three loads of laundry. Well, I did the Patrol, and I've cooked the beans now, but when I went to do the laundry, I met Chantal along the way, and she told me it was standing room only at the laundry room - so I've put that chore off until dinner time, when (if experience is to be trusted) there's nobody there at all. Meanwhile, I'm still wearing my cycling clothes (plus the jacket I've thrown on because the wind is chilly) because pretty well everything else is in those bags of laundry sitting outside the door.

Tomorrow I plan to go to Hermosillo with Roger and Chantal. They are going to pick up Roger's nephew, who will be spending the next month here. They also plan to do some shopping - hence my tagging along. I want to buy a new Oster blender (Chantal got hers in Hermosillo), and Robin wants some gringo cheese. We will probably go out to dinner when we get back, rather than try to cook after the trip - so I'll see you back here in a couple of days.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

What a day! When I got up this morning, I steeled myself for the bike ride to the estuary. Robin got my bike down, pumped some air into the tires, sprayed the chain with WD-40. I dressed in jeans and a jacket, because it was cold outside. Robin said maybe I should reconsider that, and of course he was right. I changed into a short-sleeved shirt, but kept the jeans on. I was plenty warm. I didn't confess that one of my reasons for wearing the jeans was that I still didn't entirely trust my balance - but I did fine, and I really enjoyed the ride. It was obvious that I hadn't been getting enough exercise, but I didn't actually have to stop for a rest! When we got to the estuary, we pulled the bikes up the path to where we could sit on the stone wall and look out over the bay. The water was glassy, and there were no dolphins in sight - the only disappointment of the trip.

When we got home, I set about making tea and brunch. My immediate plan was to make a marinade for tonight's steaks and start them brewing - but Robin came in and said "We're all going to take the kayaks over to the estuary." "Have a good time," I replied. "No, we want you to come with us." Oh. So I changed clothes again, this time into shorts, grabbed my beach shoes, and joined the group. At the estuary, we unloaded the boats. There are only three kayaks - I don't have one - which is one reason why I didn't think I was going along. Roger told me to take his kayak, which is the longest of the three - and said he would walk Blitzen around on the beach and meet us. So off we went, Robin, Chantal and I, and I discovered that I have to save my pennies so I can have a kayak next year. It was a lovely experience. I did run into Robin as we pulled up onto the beach at the other end, but not very hard. ;>)

When we decided to go back to the truck, we discussed strategy. The tide had been going out while we were there, which meant there was less water in the lagoon than there had been, and there was some chance that we might have to walk along in the water and pull the boats behind us. We did have to do that, but not for much of the trip. When the water got to be about 4" or less deep, we climbed out, walked until the mud underfoot got icky, then climbed back into the boats and paddled the rest of the way back.

Are you counting? That's TWO unaccustomed bouts of exercise I've had today - but I haven't done any of my usual walking, so I'll probably survive.

Anyway, we're safely back at home, the steaks are marinating, Roger and Chantal are having a nap, I'm trying to watch the Super Bowl - just so I'll understand what all my online friends are going on about - and Robin is commandeering the remote. Heh.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Last night's dinner was a resounding success. Chantal made chicken enchiladas, which we topped with salsa verde. Now we have to find a night of the week to be our official Enchilada Night. There were no enchilada tortillas available in town (these are thicker than the ones you use for tacos), so Chantal used flour tortillas, and they worked just beautifully. She used the Mexican method of making one enchilada at a time, rather than putting a bunch in a pan and baking them. We used the salsa verde recipe we got from Maria. Here it is, complete with our revisions:

Salsa Verde

about 7 tomatillos
water to cover
1-2 chiles
1-2 cloves of garlic
1/4 of a white onion
salt and pepper to taste
1 avocado
pinch of sugar

Remove the "paper" from the tomatillos and rinse them. Put them (whole) into a cazuela or saucepan with the chiles. I used two jalapenos and part of a poblano that I had left over. Add the onion, salt and pepper, 1-2 cloves of garlic, and enough water to just about cover the tomatillos. Cook over medium heat for about 20 minutes. Cool. Drain, reserving the water.

Place the mixture in a blender. Add an avocado. (Sour cream or mayonnaise may be substituted for the avocado.) Blend, adding 1/4 of the reserved cooking water if the salsa is too thick.

Here's the part that Maria says she got from watching Emeril. Tomatillos have rather a tangy, almost lemon-like flavour. If your salsa has too much tang for your taste, add a pinch of sugar.

Here's where Chantal and I took off on our own. We doubled that pinch of sugar - the salsa still wasn't sweet, and it shouldn't be, but it was much smoother. Then, I decided to add a bit of whipping cream (leftovers, again), and the result was perfect, or so we think.


While I'm talking about recipes, I should straighten out the one I put in when I first got here - the one I named Hamburguesa San Carlos, iirc. It turns out that it's actually called Picadillo, which means that everything in it is chopped. The real recipe goes like this:


1 lb. minced beef, turkey, pork, or a mixture
1 potato
2 medium tomatoes, ripe
1/2 white onion
3 cloves of garlic
1-2 chiles (Serrano, jalapeno, guero) to taste
handful of raisins
handful of green olives
3 T olive oil
herbs and spices, if you like - oregano, cumin, maybe cinnamon?

Pre-cook the potato and dice it. Coarsely chop the other non-meat ingredients.

Heat the oil in a cazuela. Add meat and brown it. Season. Add potato, tomato, onion, garlic, and chiles. Taste for seasoning. Add a bit of water or stock if the mixture is too dry. Add olives and raisins. Cook another 5 minutes or so. Use to stuff chiles rellenos, enchiladas, tacos, etc.

The combination of raisins and olives sounded a bit strange to me, but it's really very good. I think pine nuts would go well in the dish. It makes a good base for a pasta sauce, as well.


Last night was very quiet for a Friday. We think that the disco across the street (Have I mentioned that? It wasn't there last year. It's quite the going concern on the weekend, starting at about 10 p.m. and going on until 3-4 a.m. The sub-woofers are earth-shaking - literally.)
Anyway, they weren't going last night. We think that with all the Carnaval festivities going on in Guaymas, nobody's bothering to come out here. Let's hear it for Carnaval!

We just came back from Miramar, where we went to take some pictures of the fishing fleet. It's rather a grey day today, which turned out to be good for taking pictures.

There wasn't nearly as much going on today as there was yesterday, though, when they seemed to be bringing in squid by the tonne.

I enjoyed watching this man mending his nets - until Robin told me they were drift nets, which are apparently horrid things.

On the way back home, we stopped to take pictures of the rock I'd been admiring, and found that the fishing (squidding?) boats were looking particularly photogenic out there.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Tom, Dick, and Kate pulled out yesterday, headed home. We all agree we will miss them, and hope we meet again next year - if not sooner. It sounds as if we will all be heading to the Yucatan next year, so with any luck....

In the afternoon, I made a solo trip to Guaymas to buy masa for tortillas and a few other things. At the fabric store, I bought another tablecloth, and I asked for samples of a couple of fabrics I'm considering for curtains. I think I've made up my mind now. I'll be buying a cream-coloured fabric with a scrolly floral pattern on it, for 36.90 (that's pesos!) a metre. They were selling decorated masks at the front door, so I picked up one for Chantal and one for me, in case we get brave enough to go into town for Carnaval. In all likelihood, we'll skip it, not being crowd people, really - and in that case, we'll just have our own Mardi Gras party here. Chantal introduced me this morning to a lovely lady named Joyce, another Washingtonian. Joyce apparently throws a big Academy Awards bash every year, complete with red carpet and evening dress. Surely she would help us put together a Mardi Gras celebration!

Today, R&C&R and I drove out to the pearl factory. We stopped along the way at the Hotel Playa de Cortes, just to check it out - because it has an RV park. It's lovely, but a little isolated. We found an artisan in the courtyard, and I bought a little something from him. I won't say what it is, because it's a present. We had an interesting chat, some of which I understood. His name is Juan Pablo Romero, if I remember correctly. He's half Yaqui and half Mexican (whatever that means) and he told me about his 93 year old father, Pedro, who does a special dance at Holy Week every year (I'd like to see that). As for the pearls, they were lovely, but they were way out of my price range. The colour of the pearls was quite different from what I've seen before. They were neither black nor white, but a bluish/greenish-grey - and quite large.

We could see fishing boats pulling up on the shore nearby, and after a bit of wandering through a rather pretty little neighbourhood, we found our way to them. It turned out that the fishermen were bringing in a huge catch of squid and having it weighed. Then, other men loaded the squid into trucks for shipping while the fishermen roared away again in their boats. It was all very interesting. We may go back tomorrow, armed with cameras.

After that, we made a foray to the tortilleria and the supermarket. I was proud of myself. I managed to ask the butcher to give me some minced beef with only a little fat - and he understood me. I planned to use some of the beef to make enchiladas for my dinner, but I don't have to, because Chantal is doing enchiladas, and she's going to feed me. Bonus.

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