Saturday, December 20, 2014

THE Story of the Day




 The jardin looked spectacularly colorful and lush yesterday.  This photo was taken while I was sitting on the bench and turned around to snap it.  I had not been into the jardin in several weeks.  Not since they had planted all the poinsettias or put up the Christmas decorations.  Time flies.
 Soon where the kiosk is located will be the Nativity scene with live animals.  It's always so delightful to see.

Heading down to have "bench time" yesterday was delightful.  Friends walked by and stopped to talk.  My son walked by on his way to brunch..........on his birthday!  I met him later for a bit of time.

The Christmas decorations are relatively simple with poinsettias, paper lanterns and some tinsely rope tied between the light fixtures. 
In about 2003, the city started putting up a tree in the jardin.  Prior to that it was unusual to see Christmas trees anywhere.  Certainly at that time, there still were not fresh trees to buy for one's home.  Today there are. Pathways and streets have visitors, but not like it will be starting next week.  It will be full.  These photos were taken about 11AM.  As the day wears on, the people become more plentiful.

As we sat talking, a wedding party arrived with a beautiful bride, about to be married in the magnificent Parroquia.  A little unusual on a Friday.  Most of the weddings are back to back in all the churches on the weekends.  San Miguel is quite a destination wedding city now.

I have saved the best for last.  While we were sitting and talking, beautiful, soft, melodic guitar music was playing on a bench just down from us.  Absolutely lovely. 

Initially, the man with the hole in his jeans was walking by, heard the music and I saw his fingers playing the song as he stood and watched them.  He moved on.  But, he came back.  He went over and dropped coins in their little tip box, listened for a bit and left.  He came back again about five minutes later.  He bent down and just listened.  Very intently and watched the guitarist playing.  He was so in the moment. 

I would so like to have known his story.  At some point in his life he has or still does play music.  I got that feeling from watching his fingers playing along with the musicians. 

His clothes are tattered.  He wasn't particularly clean.  He looked, at first, like a street person.  But his spirit was in the music.  The sparkle that came to his eyes when that music began said it all. 

This man was a message of generosity and someone "living in the moment".  He made my day!  And, the musicians made his, obviously.

Viva Mexico!



Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Antea Lifestyle Center, Part 2 - Juriquilla, Mexico

Back on January 7th of this year, I wrote the first piece about this stupendous lifestyle center (mall). Finally, yesterday was the day to see what all the conversations have been about.

Thankfully, someone else was driving away from Queretaro where we had been earlier.  It was like trying to land a 747 in a big airport with all the twists and turns without, of course, good signage.  But, with much screeching by those of us in the car, we made the correct turn at the SECOND turn and got there.

As the Brits would say, I was "gobsmacked".  The size, the development and what will encompass the surrounding area was grand, to put in mildly.

Upon entering the open area, as it is NOT an enclosed mall, there was a Crate and Barrel the size of the one in the Galleria area of Houston!  And as one goes farther in, a very high end store called Palacio de Herro.
  Rumor has it that it is more expensive then Neiman Marcus.  Or as we refer to it in the USA, "needless markup".   It was not on my agenda to go into a store that I couldn't afford to buy anything.  However, those that I was with, went in, came out and exclaimed at the prices.  See, I saved time.
Turning to the right was this open area with kiosks on the first level with roof gardens.  As I was taking the four photos and only four that I took, a security guard approached me.  In Spanish he said something (yes I know what he said).  But, thinking if I played gringo, I would get to take more photos I responded, "No comprende Espanol".  Aaah, but he was prepared, because in perfect English and very mannerly he said please take no photos.  Oh my.  Of course I didn't.  You'll just have to check it out yourself.





One of the disappointing aspects was no directory of what is or where the stores are located.  You have to walk the whole thing.  Lots of VERY high end stores, but also stores such as Merrill shoes, Victoria's Secret, Forever 21 (my granddaughters would be thrilled), H&M which had some fantastic home decor items along with precious childrens'clothes at extremely reasonable prices.  I was so surprised to see some of the brands there.

Liverpool has a huge anchor store at the exact opposite end from Herro Mexico.  And, I spotted PF Chang's hidden in a side aisle that I missed when going the other way initially.

I headed over to see the design of the food court.  One BIG food court with all the tables and chairs to be used for any and all of the establishments.  At each end of the outdoor dining area were waterwalls.  A very nice touch.  BIG white sun umbrellas covered each table.    It was very well designed.  The food establishments were in a line.  Little signage other then their logo.  Well done.

Sitting there watching and waiting for my friends, I was astonished at several things.  One was the number of uniformed men and women that were security people.  No weapons, only walkie talkies.  Many customers in business attire.  Men in suits.  Women in suits.  Something not often seen in San Miguel.

It was impressive to imagine all the personnel that are employed in this center both in retail sales and ancillary positions.  What a boon to the area. 

Quite a few people in the center, but few with bags.  In other words, a tourist attraction, mostly.  I was among the bag less people.  That doesn't mean that I won't return some day.  I've already scouted out a few stores that I would like to explore but didn't yesterday.

I said to my friends as we left, you would never have seen this  15 or 20 years ago.  With the change that NAFTA has wrought in this country, which has caused, to a large degree, the emergence of the middle class, I found it quite an interesting social study.

The facility is beautifully constructed with high end materials.  It would have been a project that I would have been proud to have been involved in, if I were still doing that kind of work.  I DO hope though that there is much more landscaping in the transitional spaces surrounding the parking lots and roadways to give a more destination feel as one arrives. Right now it is like landing in a big open field next to a highway.

I'm sure as time goes by, it will receive the big trees and landscaping needed.  Work, they say, will continue until 2021 before all is completed!  




Saturday, December 13, 2014

A Full Heart

Sometimes life gets too hectic to find time to write the blog.  I hate when that happens, but this past week is a prime example.

A lovely couple from Ohio was in the guest house!  How fun to observe them enjoying San Miguel for the first time and their comment that "We will be back" as they left.........

Getting ready for the BIG (for me) Koffee Klatch Christmas Gathering at my house.  It was a pot luck so it seemed it would be a piece of cake.  I had forgotten all the little details of having a group over.  It has been quite a few years.

The last time I did something like this I had fifty-five for dinner out in the gardens for a sit down meal.  That was quite an event.  It has not happened again........

This was pure joy!  Last night and this morning I've reflected about how grateful one should be - and I am - to have such a zany, wacky, fun group of friends to share life with.

As always, even the best plans of mice and men, never happen the anticipated way.  I had worried, needlessly, as to where everyone would be able to sit to eat the feast that everyone was bringing.  I had played it out in my head a dozen times.  The guest house table could seat six.  The dining room table in my house could seat eight.  AND, the roof terrace glass top table could accommodate six easily.  Perfect!

Thursday was one of the coldest days it seemed to me.  In fact I got so chilled at one point that I came home and crawled under the covers to warm up for about thirty minutes.  So, scratch the roof top terrace table.

Then yesterday, I awoke to a relatively warmer day.  One that one could walk outside without saying ""mucho frio"...........

Still I didn't plan on the rooftop terrace table.  How would this work out, I wondered.

Here's what happened in photos:
Just put out appetizers and positions are determined.  Near the food.  I failed to take a photo of the line of food. At that point it was too hectic. Here is some of what was served.  Baked Ham, Fabulous pork tenderloin, au gratin potatoes, baked sweet potatoes, creamed corn, green beans, salads galore, hot breads and rolls, just to name some of it.  Dessert was lemon bars, German chocolate cake and an exceptional carrot cake as well.

At this point I thought people would sit at the dining room table, NOT.  Some did go to the guest house to that table, but most stayed in the living room.  About eleven of us.  It was interesting.

Dessert was served in the living room as well.  No one was leaving.  Good food and then the zany Santa gift swap.  Dogie, of course, gave us the rules.  But, rules are only to be broken and our group is good at that, ha.  Here are some of the fun photos.




It was still relatively sedate at this point.  Then a few people decided they wanted the gift that the previous person had selected. It became quite hilarious.  Some gifts were swiped with all kinds of pleading from the one who had it, not to take it.  Great laughter ensued.  It's pretty hard to stay mad at someone in a Santa hat............
                        The FIRST person to get the hummingbird feeder was thrilled............




              The second person to take the hummingbird feeder was a guest from Seattle, Jerry.
       And then, those that had their gifts taken had to select and open another present.  Here's Ron getting candy.

The unthinkable happened, I took the hummingbird feeder from the second person (no photos to prove it) and I got to keep it because of some rule or other.  Woo hoo.

Added to the fun of this, was that my son John brought the children by.  Originally the plan was for them to stay for about ten minutes because it was an "adult" party but somehow, they were so welcomed by everyone and had so much fun helping others open their gifts and ooooohing and aaahing with each recipient, that they stayed for the whole party.

I love the photo of Matilda with BIG eyes when Don opened a giant jar of candy.

A cute story that I didn't know happened was relayed to me by Ron this morning.  Matilda and Sebastian were sitting next to Sheryl, a relative newbie to the group.  When she chose her gift, it seems that Sebastian could hardly contain himself and was bouncing on the couch, very quietly saying "Open it" "Open it"...
Sheryl heard it and asked Matilda and  Sebastian to help her open the gift.  Sweet.

Words can't express how grateful I am for all of these people.  We are a very diverse group.  In our lives, in our beliefs, in where we all come from.  It doesn't matter one bit.  We respect each others lives and revel in the friendship that has grown in the years that this little group has been together.

We started as Dogie, Sue and I.  Over the years it has grown to this.  What a blessing!

At Christmas when we take time to reflect on the message of the holidays, to me, this is what it is all about.

Family, friends..........oh, and good food!  And, kiddingly, I must add unexpected gifts.  My heart is full.


Sunday, December 07, 2014

FIRENZE Restaurant, thanks to dondayinsma!

A week or so ago, Dondayinsma (see his blog in the blog roll to the right side) reviewed Firenze.

A good friend had suggested we have lunch to discuss the world and other assorted items of interest.

Initially he suggested another restaurant but then emailed back and suggested Firenze.  We had both read
Don Day's review.  Each of us was intrigued and ready to try out the new location.

About a year ago, I had dined at the other location that Firenze had operated from near the Col. San Antonio church in the former Jackie's location.  Notice I say dined.  It was not an eating evening.  The food was too good to say that.  It was definitely a dining experience, which is an infrequent occurrence for me
here in San Miguel.

I had oohed and aahed about the ravioli with sage butter sauce along with the rest of the meal.

Therefore, with great anticipation, I arrived before the restaurant even opened at 1PM on Thursday.
With a pleasant outdoor dining space, it was fine to sit and watch the street traffic until my friend arrived.

Then we entered the restaurant.

But before that happened, two unknown women had arrived about the time I did.  The first woman was a real character.  When the owner told her what the prix fixe menu was, she told him she couldn't eat this and couldn't eat that.  Could she have her caesar salad without croutons as she could not have bread. (The irony is that I saw this same woman eating a croissant on the park bench in the jardin not thirty minutes prior to this!) Then he told them one of the entrees was grouper and he only had two servings left to offer.  The irritating woman wanted only that and the caesar salad without croutons.  He gently explained that he would have to charge her the prix fixe price even though she didn't want the dessert.  She agreed.  So the two of them ordered the grouper.  I had not uttered a word, but in my heart, was disappointed.  Grouper has been a favorite of mine since the first time I ate it in Cozumel.

After I discovered grouper in Cozumel, I came home to Houston and searched out the restaurants that served it.  Only a few back in the 80's.  Not the case today.

Then the women decided they wanted to move inside to eat, next to us as we were in the main dining room.
One of the women said there was a smell and she couldn't eat in this room or outside.........and they left.

Of course when Anthony came to tell us the entrees, I asked for the grouper, with a big smile and an impish grin.  My friend ordered the same.  We also ordered the roasted cauliflower soup with truffle oil.
AND a bottle of delicious merlot.  Fresh, crusty bread was brought while we waited for our soup.

Then remembering the delicious ravioli, we asked if we could have just a tasting of the ravioli which we knew would be at a slight additional cost.
My intention was to photograph each course.  As the ravioli arrived so did the wine.  The last time I had a drink in the middle of the day was probably two years ago at the beach.  

No, I didn't feel a thing.  No I wasn't incapacitated.  I was just lulled into quiet bliss.  The food, the wine, the delightful conversation with my companion who has, in the past, been a world traveler along with an intriguing career. 

We had our grouper served on top of a tiny serving of mashed potatoes and diced vegetables.  Each morsel was savored.  Then came the desserts.  Miniscule, because we had selected the prix fixe, my friend had the panne cotta.  I, of course, had the dollop of molten chocolate cake.  One bite - just enough. It didn't even occur to me that I had not photographed the other soup, the entree or the dessert~~

Even though our portions were smaller then normal, neither of us felt as though we had not had enough food.
We were satiated.  The prix fixe price is 150 pesos for three courses   With the current exchange rate that is about $10.50USD!

The service, of course, was superb.  Between Anthony and Carlos, the head waiter, nothing was left to chance.  There were six other diners for lunch that day!  A goodly number since they have not been open that long.  Anthony did mention that they had been very busy the previous evening.

                        My friend Don and the waiter Anthony at the beginning when we first arrived.

The restaurant is tiny.  If I remember correctly, inside in the dining room is seating for 12 or 14 guests.
I don't remember what the seating capacity is outside.

When we left the restaurant two hours later, the sun was shining, the world was still functioning and I, for sure, was very relaxed from a delicious dining experience and a good merlot wine.

Firenze is located at Recreo 13 near Solutions and closer to Hospicio, then Correo.  There is not a sign on the building as yet........BUT if you look in you'll see table set up in a courtyard.  That's it.

Maybe, just maybe, next time I'll remember to photograph the courses.......



Saturday, December 06, 2014

Resisting for Fourteen Years

Architecture and design have always been my passion.  When moving into this property, the arches, the stone walls and the architecturally unscathed cantera stairs delighted my senses.

Resisting for fourteen years to have handrails, banisters, or anything to detract from the stairs WAS my goal.

Then a couple of months ago after falling really hard, something connected.  It was an unexpected, quick and severe fall.  Maybe it knocked some sense into my head! 

Shortly thereafter, I began to think about what if that had happened at the top of the stairs and I had fallen over the edge and fallen three stories down.  I truly had never been concerned before this. 


As one enters from the roof terrace there is a really deep step. My concern had always been for others because I knew how to hold onto the open door and frame,  But, would they?  It was disconcerting to others.  They expressed concern about me.  I pooh poohed it, always.

Then with this fall, for some reason, I became tentative as I came off the roof terrace.  Sheesh, what a wimp.  But then I thought, you could be a DEAD wimp!  Or worse, an injured, severely wimp........

So, finally I said something, after fourteen years to the owners when they came to put in the new water tank.
Last week they put in handrails from the first floor to the ground floor where my bedroom, dressing area and bathroom are located.  Hmmmm, I realized that holding that handrail going up helped my "still sore" injured knee.

Today, they came to install the banisters and handrails.  By this time I didn't even care if they were pretty.  Once I realized the danger, I just wanted something, anything, any color and sturdy.

Voila!  That's exactly what I got.  It ain't pretty.  It ain't a pretty design.  It ain't even colorful.


BUT it sure as heck is sturdy!

It was fascinating to watch them bring in the two pieces, measure again, reweld, secure, and touch up paint .  

One of the funniest things was when I heard the vacuum going.  I knew that the landlord, Carlos, knew I had a vacuum in the bodega.  I quickly grabbed my camera to get a photo of him vacuuming up the concrete dust from installing the railings.
I came rolling around the corner of the stairs, snapped the photo and told him I was sending it to his wife, Maria.  Love the smile on his face!  A Mexican man vacuuming.  NOW I've seen everything.  AND, he knew it!

NOW I'll really be able to zip up and down the stairs. No more snail's pace for me.  Well, maybe until the knee is completely healed.  It's been eight weeks........and counting.  

I think the beach will heal all wounds, soon.

Thursday, December 04, 2014

The Feast of St. Barbara

This year I purchased a Mexican calendar again so I can keep up with all the saints that are honored with fireworks at 6AM. 

I was surprised to see that St. Barbara was on there for December 4th - her day as I was growing up.
My mother,  a devout Catholic, would make a big deal about our saint's day.  Having grown up as a Catholic and gone to Catholic girls' school for part of my education, the saints were a big deal for everyone.

In fact, back in those days, it was basically unheard of not to name your child for a saint.  Don't think today there is a Saint Tiffany, Saint North, well you get my drift.

At some point, after I left the Catholic Church, I heard that Saint Barbara had been stripped of her sainthood.  Don't remember why or how, but I remember thinking,. "Well no wonder if I prayed to her for
all those years nothing happened."

Hence my surprise, today, December 4th, on the Mexican calendar it is the Feast of St. Barbara.  However, one would not know that as I never heard fireworks.......

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Cloudy, Foggy and Cold in San Miguel de Allende

This morning's weather was definitely not a typical morning here in San Miguel.  However, it is welcomed as a nice change.  This kind of weather gives one an excuse to not leave the house, not do anything of consequence and just veg.

Although, I haven't been vegging this morning.  I've had the landlord here to measure again for the handrails going on the stairs leading to the roof terrace - FINALLY.  Then the laundry arrived.  In the midst of that, I put all the ingredients for a big pot of stew in the crockpot where it is now simmering.  If you show up here about 5PM, you can have stew, cornbread and a slice of cherry pie for dessert!

Little projects to do.  Having twenty people here on the 12th for comida.  It's amazing how many things one has procrastinated about that get done when company is coming.  The list is long and I have been checking things off.  It feels good.  Stuff that no one will notice, except for me.

The other reason I love this weather is it gives me time to fantasize about how wonderful my month at the beach in January will be.  Views like this await.
                                                    The beach at Barra de Navidad.
                       The beach at Cuastacoamate.  Not particularly attractive, but in close proximity.              
    La Manzanilla.  About a thirty minute drive on twisty Hwy 200 heading due north.  On the beautiful bay of  Tenacatita.  A favorite bay of mine.
                                                       Lots of sunsets to enjoy!

     Watching fishermen and sailors from a chaise lounge while enjoying fresh seafood and a drink or two.

Ahh yes.  That's what I'm thinking about today.Funny, I just turned around to look out the window.  Sunny, azure blue skies beckon.  Hopefully that will raise the temps from 44 to 70.  Quickly!  I can still think about being at the beach and being WARM..........Woo hoo.

Anyone want to join me?  I've rented a two bedroom bungalow right on the beach!  Can hear AND feel the waves crashing.  Oh my.  Can I wait four weeks?