Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Mexico - Sometimes, "One minute at a time"

Living in the moment is required in Mexico.  When people ask me to do something two or three weeks in the future, I always hesitate.  You see, you never know what or where or how things will be going that far in advance.

Yesterday was a prime example.  With lots of errands and appointments it was a "chockablock" day.

Arriving home at 2:30PM, there were lots of men at the corner of my house.  Unusual.  I didn't pay much attention.  Parked the car and started to head for the gate.

One of the men came up and said he was with the water/sewer company known as SAPASMA!  Uh oh, this didn't sound good.

SAPASMA had been trenching a block away on Cuahtemoc for at least a month.  Dirt and dust, not to mention that it is the one street going DOWN the hill for the children who go to the kindergarten and the kids that go to the primary school across from me.  It's also the down road for all the cars, trucks and motorcycles.

He informed me that they were getting ready to trench my street, starting NOW!  Starting at the corner of my house.  I look at my watch, it is now 2:45PM.  It will be dark in a few hours.  He says they'll get all the way down the street before dark with the diggers and bull dozers.  In my mind, I know better but I have learned to just smile.

More importantly is the fact that the  tenant who is in the guest house has her car loaded and ready to drive back to the USA first thing Wednesday morning.  No place to park the car except in my garden behind the gate.  I ask if it is possible for them to NOT trench in front of gates until next day.  He said, "Yes".

I move my car to avoid it being trenched, to park between two huge dirt piles.  It is still there!

Further the man from SAPASMA said all the work will be done in two or three weeks.  Again I smiled.

The trenching and jack hammering began.  YIKES

This morning I looked out and this is the extent of the trenching done in three hours.  They did leave the space for the former tenant to leave.  She and her friend are now on their way to the USA, loaded to the roof with furniture, stuff and a cat.  Mexico was not for her, sadly.

I, on the other hand,  decided after all the drama and excitement, today would be a good day to stay home and sit in the sun to watch the hummingbirds and monarchs.

I took fourteen photos of hummingbirds!  Ha, not one photo has a hummingbird in it.  My hat is off to nature photographers.  They must be the most patient human beings on the face of the earth.  There were at least five hummingbirds feeding off the blooming aloes along with monarchs on the poinsettia tree.  Nope, none of them in these photos either.  Guess my camera isn't fast enough........

Here's what I did get.  All of these blooms, the orange spikes, the poinsettia and the seeds on the china berry tree denote the fact that fall is definitely here.

Living life "one minute at a time" here in Mexico IS the only way, it seems to me. 

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Tasty Treats in San Miguel de Allende - A Listing of Some Restaurants

With 234 restaurants in San Miguel, one could find just about any culinary delight one could imagine.

We have Japanese, Chinese, Lebanese, Italian, Mexican, American BBQ, just to name a few.
At one point we had a restaurant that served Sri Lankan food!  It lasted for several years.

Here are a list of some of the favorites.  Most on this list have been here for quite some time.  Some had previous owners with previous names, but the ambiance and the food have always been delicious.

For special occasions, I like Gayle's place with the fancy name of Hacienda de Montitlan.  No one who has lived here for very long remembers that and all who dine there refer to it as "Gayle's place".  Gayle is a former caterer and restaurant owner. She prepares all this food in her commercial kitchen in her huge home. EVERYTHING is made from scratch.  A menu is sent out weekly and if you are making reservations on Tuesday when you receive it, you choose from 3 entrees, usually 3 appetizers and 3 desserts.  Always beyond expectations.

Casa de los Milagros, or as we call it "Milagros",  has an extensive menu, great waiters and is located right in centro.  It's about a half block on Relox from where we have the Koffee Klatch group.  Hence, we choose it for lunch on Mondays often.  We are never disappointed.  Their tilapia salad is amazingly large and one of my favorites.

Another restaurant in centro, just a half block past Milagros is China Palace.  Dining alfresco is always a favorite of everyone.  China Palace, along with Gayle's place have that in spades.  My favorite meal at
China Palace is Orange chicken. I try to get there, if I'm lucky, once a month.

Tio Lucas and Hank's along with Chamonix are within walking distance of the jardin.  Tio Lucas has always been a favorite of the locals and visitors.  It's a little pricier then the others, but the food is always delicious. Expect a wait at night after 9PM, it's a popular place.

Hank's is Cajun cuisine.  I go there when I'm craving a poor boy or gumbo.  They used to have red beans and rice, but I guess not enough people ordered it so it was dropped, unfortunately.  If you're from Louisiana, you'll understand my disappointment in that fact. Hank's has Taco Tuesday.  I think the Tacos are a dollar a piece.  Of course they make their money on the booze they sell, so tacos for a dollar is a bargain for us and them.

Chamonix is a little hidden restaurant on Sollano with a red door.  It is mostly courtyard dining along with one room that each time I've been there was having a private dinner in that room.  They have Thai, International and many Mexican dishes as well.  A favorite of mine.

Over on Calzada de Aurora, the former owner of Romano's has opened a restaurant that is only open Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.  But it is worth the trek there and worth waiting for the steaks, osso bucco, creme brulee and pate' just to name a few of the favorites of the crowd.  My little secret is that when I go, I only have the pate' and creme brulee.  The name of the restaurant is Hanson's who happens to be one of the partners in the venture.  Dick, the owner is a long time restauranteur who knows how to keep consistency, good help and a welcoming smile for everyone.  Great guy, great restaurant.

Going out toward the Instituto and continuing on are several restaurants on Ancha de San Antonio.

The first is Cafe Monet. Have never had a bad meal there.  Bill, the owner is a delight along with his staff.
Usually I'm there for breakfast and his steel cut oatmeal.  Breakfast of oatmeal and coffee is forty pesos.  A real bargain.  Other breakfast fare includes Eggs Benedict, omelets, hotcakes, etc.  His lunch and evening selections are equally good.

On the opposite side of the street is Hecho en Mexico.  Eric the owner, graduated from the culinary program in Nevada and knows consistency, good menu planning, and how to train a good staff.
His lunch prices are quite amazing so many of us on a fixed income have lunch there frequently.  In addition, now there is a full bar and music on Friday nights.  It is a very pleasant atmosphere with an open courtyard in part of it that can be closed if it is raining or cold.

Going farther out the same street on the left, before the Pemex station, is the Texas hangout called Longhorn.  Typical BBQ fare, delicious ribs, brisket, sausage with sides of cole slaw, potato salad and/or beans is the usual fare.  Now they are having specials.  On Thursday night it is steak for 99 pesos which comes with baked potato and salad.  I hear it is a packed place that night.  The owner, Keith, had never been in the restaurant business before coming to San Miguel.  He previously lived in Houston and is a Brit.
He's learned the trade and has a loyal clientele.

When I need a taste of Texas, I head there and have a brisket sandwich.  ALWAYS see someone I know, which is kinda fun.

Often on Fridays, the Koffee Klatch group meets at LaFrontera on Sterling Dickinson.  There is a special each day.  On Fridays it is fish tacos with either fish or shrimp.  Delicious.  We always try to sit outside unless it is too cold and windy.  Only a couple months of the year that that happens, thankfully.

Two other restaurants that are off the beaten path are The Food Factory which is at La Aurora.  It has a menu similar to Chamonix.  Unfortunately they don't have alfresco dining, but the food is always delicious.
Pastas, Thai, and a few other tasty items.

Then out of town, but soon to have a location in town, is Pizza Pig.  Tim, the owner, has created a fun place to dine on fresh ingredient pizzas.  He makes his own Italian sausage to use on the pizzas.  Some of us order the vegetarian pizza and add a few other ingredients.  We've had many a birthday party out there.  If you read the blog, you've seen many of the wacky photos over the years.

Now, before I start getting posts asking why I left some restaurant off the list, it was not meant as a slight of any kind.  There are so many others that this could go on and on.  The fun thing is discovering those on your own.

I must confess, if left to me, I would eat at Villa Santa Monica, a luxurious, small boutique hotel near Juarez Park, often.  The food is not particularly good, but the courtyard where you dine, is one of the prettiest spots in San Miguel.  I often go there by myself just for a little bite  so I can remember how dining in Mexico used to be.  Slow, personable and quiet among beautiful flowers and blue sky.

Let me know your favorite places in San Miguel.  I admit that I eat more at home then out at restaurants.
Gosh, while I was writing that sentence three more restaurants came to mind.  Oh well.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

I'm not "lolly gagging" around!

It's been one of THOSE weeks with all kinds of things EVERY day.  Preferable are weeks with a couple of days of nothing, which I always manage to use to read a book or some such thing.

The week started last Sunday with a dear friend coming over for lunch.  Just her, so we could jump from subject to subject and catch up on months of stuff that has been going on in both of our lives.  What a joyful afternoon.

Monday, of course, is Koffee Klatch Day with lunch with the bunch afterwards.  It's great to see everyone so that you can find out what happened the past week and what IS going to happen in the coming week.
Usually it's about 3PM before arriving back at the casa.

That same evening there was a Santa Fe Workshop event for free at the Angela Peralta theater, but, I erred on the side of tiredness and didn't get there. An old, old friend, Keith Carter from Beaumont was speaking.
It would have been nice to connect.  Well, c'est la vie!

Tuesday was to meet a new acquaintance at 9AM! for breakfast at Cafe Monet.  They have the best breakfasts and absolutely the most delicious steel cut oatmeal in San Miguel.  It was intriguing to hear about the life of this woman from Montreal.  Lovely person.

After leaving her, I dropped off cushions and pillows to be recovered for the roof terrace, left a check for the SMA Writers Conference next February along with shopping for some fill in plants for the garden which were planted upon returning to the casa.  The pansies look great.

Wednesday the new computer guru was arriving at 9AM along with Josefina the maid, so instead of laying around when awakening at 7:30, it was necessary to jump out of bed, make coffee and await the arrival of the two.  Of course the computer guru didn't arrive until after 9:30AM. When will I ever learn?

Thursday morning was awakening to no electricity!  First thought is, "Did the bill get paid?"  Of course it did, but I did stick my head out the gate and ask the caretaker at the school if their electricity was off.  Yup, it was.  The whole block was off.  It had been off since around 4AM and didn't come back on til 11AM. That has not happened in years - that length of time.

Plans were to head to Ron and Fred's for lunch, to use their laundry facilities and to help them solve a design need.  All were accomplished, sort of.  Still working on the design solution.

Thursday night was dinner with friends that I met on my trip to Guatemala eight years ago.  They spend every summer in the states traveling in their large RV.  I live vicariously through their adventures and wish I was squirreled away in a compartment or something.

All at the table were avid travelers.  One couple has been to so many out of the way places on all continents.  It was fascinating to hear their stories. Great time.  Great conversations.

Friday dawned and that's the day to get to the jardin to see what is going on.  OMG, there were little kids dressed in costumes for every country.  I don't know if there was a parade or not.  They were all just milling around.  Then the mojigangas arrived.  Lots of laughter and squealing by the kids.

An acquaintance who lived here about thirteen years ago for a few years was in the jardin with her husband.  She and he live in California now.  It was nice to hear about their lives and their families.

On another note,  my grandson, Sebastian was injured at a party on Thursday night and required stitches in his neck.  He's home from the hospital and being a Grammy, I delivered his favorite home baked chocolate chip cookies to him at my son's house when I visited yesterday afternoon along with a hot lunch.

Whew!  It's now Saturday morning.  There WAS someplace I was going to go this morning but I said to myself  "STOP".  I think I need a down day with no agenda.  We'll see if that really happens...........It IS 10AM and I am STILL in my jammies........Here's hoping it's a quiet day!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The State of Healthcare in the USA

This time last year, I heard on talk radio that once 2014 arrived and the Affordable Care Act became law that the doctor offices and doctors would be unreachable.  People would not be able to get appointments.
Health care would go to heck in a hand basket.

Then, on January first, I had a stellar gall bladder attack.  I went to my physician here in San Miguel who did an ultrasound, saw that my gall bladder needed removal.  He suggested that I get to a doctor in the USA and
have it removed as soon as possible.

I didn't have a doctor as I had not been to my former physician in over ten years.  That clinic would not take me as a former patient.  The receptionist said I would have to come in and apply.  My first thoughts were that maybe what I had heard on talk radio was happening!

Then my daughter found a surgeon who came highly recommended.  I called him, got an appointment, and flew to Houston.  Never has anything gone any smoother as far as professionalism, care and recovery.
It was kinda a "bada bada boom""experience.  I flew in on Tuesday, saw the Dr. on Thursday, had the surgery the following Monday and flew home one week later after being seen and released by the Doctor.

Smooth as silk.  That was my experience with Dr. Wallace and his team at St. Luke's outpatient surgery.

One of the reasons I was in Houston at this time last year was because my eye doctor here in San Miguel had told me I was getting a cataract on the only eye I could see out of - oy vey!   I wanted confirmation from the clinic I had been going to for at least four years.

I had the appointment.  Dr. Welton, who had been the doctor at the clinic that I had been using, said I needed to meet Dr. Marc Sanders who performed the cataract surgery and was a Professor at Baylor.  They both were of the opinion that, at that time, I needed to have the surgery.

Whoa!  I was NOT ready for that.  I had to ruminate on the situation.  I did get a new contact prescription that helped immensely.  As many of you know, then I worried, thought and finally decided as my vision got worse and worse, that I had to go forward with the surgery to remove the cataract.

I made the trip in August to Houston.   Scared to death that I would be returning, possibly, not being able to see.

Wonder of wonders, the team at Diagnostic Eye Center were just as professional as the surgeon for the gall bladder surgery.

With their "point person", Janie Espino, who answered all questions, gave calming comments and scheduled the surgery and follow ups, I felt in more then competent hands.  I let her and Dr. Sanders know that I was
terrified.  They assured and reassured me.

In fact, Dr. Sanders said he would like to do more.  He wanted to use the laser technology that would allow more precise procedures to be accomplished.  He wanted to remove the astigmatism and several other things.  I let go of my fear and let him.  The two surgeries were at the eye surgery facility at the University of Houston Eye center on campus.

I'm still awed by my new vision!  Every morning when I rise, I can't believe I can see so well without glasses, contacts or anything.  Same thing all day. Better then in my whole life. You "see", I've had to wear something or put something in my eye for over 70 years,  I still have the thought that I need to remove my contact lense at night and then say, "Nope, no more".

To top all of this off, I received a hand written thank you note the other day from Dr. Sanders! 
So much for all the hype that doctors don't care; that doctors don't have time; that the quality of care would lessen.

That certainly has not been my experience.
In all my life, in all my need for health care, I've NEVER received a hand written note from a Doctor.
It made my day.

My point is that  healthcare in the USA, at least in my case this year, has certainly been excellent and way over and above what I expected.  The other thing is that Medicare and my supplemental policy paid for nearly every penny.  My drug coverage paid for one medicine which was $1100USD and I only had to pay $117.  Whew, thankfully.

If you are ever in need of eye care, please contact Diagnostic Eye  Center or Dr. Wallace in Houston.  Let them know I sent you as a friend,  I wish you good health...........

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Street Scenes in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico - October, 2014

I FINALLY got to the jardin to sit on the bench and observe life in San Miguel.  My usual routine used to be that I would get there every Monday and Friday.  It has been quite a long time since that has happened.  I felt the watch life in Mexico again.

There are times on the bench when no one walks by and one can just contemplate the azure blue sky or the flowers hanging on the fence in front of the icon of San Miguel, the Parroquia.  But, it doesn't last long.
A large group of happy teenagers descended on the jardin and were enthralled and photographing.  Photographing what, you say? 
They were enjoying the buskers from New Orleans who have been in town for a couple of weeks playing blues at various venues.  This day they had plopped down on the bench next to me.  The two of them were delightful to talk with as they have been all over the place.  I asked them where they were going next and they said Guanajuato or Queretaro.  Now those are two different directions.  Aaah, a great adventure.
Just taking off and going.

The teenagers look like kids from anywhere.  One of the musicians was handing out free cds.  Every one of those who received a free cd said "Gracias".  It was a delight just to sit and enjoy their happiness.

It is such a relaxing thing to just sit and wait to see what is going to happen.  Something always does.

Leaving the jardin to meet friends for lunch, I was driving since the restaurant was on the other side of town.
Up ahead was a sight I love to see.
Don't you love that the policeman stands on a little stool?  No street lights in San Miguel - something else that is unique.  The photo is pretty straight forward.  BUT, what happened as I started to drive by was what the policeman did.  He "posed" and laughed.  He put one hand behind his head and sort of swiveled his hips.  He had seen me take the photo.  I started laughing and he waved.  I giggled all the way to the restaurant.  It's those relaxed little things that bring delight to life.

Oh, and another thing, at Christmas time, "locals" take wrapped gifts and plop them around the little stool for the policemen to take home for their Christmas.  First time I saw that I was amazed.  Now I just smile!

Viva Mexico!

Friday, October 17, 2014

Devastating News in the Colonia

The street I live on has only five houses on it.  One at the far end is occupied by a Dutch couple in their late 80's who have been in Mexico for at least 50 years.

At my end of the block, there are the next door neighbors' house, his brother's house on the other side and the two on my property.

Although I don't interact on a daily basis with my neighbors, we always acknowledge each other and speak.
I've never been in my next door neighbor's house but have been in his brother's house, just recently.

The children, 10 at my next door neighbor's house and 10 at his brother's house, have been my connection.

I've always brought toys, such as kites, bubbles, little stuffed toys and other small things back for them.  Once I brought plastic dinosaurs and the kids and I sat out on the street and played with them.

All wonderful kids.  Now those that were babies when I moved here are in their late teens!  One or two have "gone north" to work.  In other words, they're in the US working.  They all are so respectful and polite.  Several in both houses take music lessons.  I often see them going down the hill with their violin in the case or something else in a case for a lesson.

A couple of weeks ago, right after I returned, I was locked out of the house as I forgot my house keys.  So
I waited for about 1 1/2 hours for Javier, the gardener to come and let me in.  At the time, only he and Josefina had a key. That has been corrected.

While I sat in the car waiting, I noticed there was a lot of comings and goings at the brother's house.  The oldest boy stood in the doorway greeting people. I had a sense of foreboding at the time.  Their grandfather had lived with them for quite a while.  I wondered if he had passed.

In fact, when I spoke to the oldest boy I asked if all was all right at their casa and he told me yes. Many of the children speak English.

Then this past Monday I saw the black ribbon tied in a bow over the front door.  Oh no, my sense of foreboding was correct.  I spoke to Javier on Tuesday morning, my next door neighbor, to ask about the

He told me that his brother had died of cancer.  I was thunderstruck and devastated.  I still cannot get over this.  To imagine the mother with ten children wrenches my heart.  Thankfully her brother-in-law and sister-in-law and all of their children are next door.

My neighbor was always, always out with the children.  They came down several times to use my big ladder to paint the outside of the house.  They came to my garage sales where I loved just giving them stuff.  How could you ever sell to a neighbor?  I can't.

At one point he wanted to buy my Pathfinder.  I told him he needed a van, not my Pathfinder and we both laughed.  I don't think he was any older then about 40.

My dilemma is that I don't know what to do for the family.  In the USA, I would be taking cooked meals to them for a while. But, since I don't cook in the Mexican style, I doubt that they would want my food.  I just don't know what is appropriate.  Can anyone help me?  Money?  Food? Then today I realized that the
Christmas holidays will be coming up in a couple of months.  Toys?

Probably one of the reasons I am feeling such angst is I remember how it was when my husband died and I had three children.  As the holidays came, I worked myself into such a state that I ended up sick in bed for at least a week with flu.  So, I'm feeling for the mother.

I admit that even though we talked all the time with each other, I don't know the man's name or his wife's name.  I'm embarrassed to admit that.  There are so many kids, that I can't keep all their names straight and a few years ago I stopped trying.

Nevertheless, I want to do something.  Any ideas or suggestions?  I would really appreciate it.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

It's About Time!

The cake for about sixty people said it all!  Ron and Fred, my dear friends of twenty-three years, who have been together for twenty-three years finally got married.

Fred said it very eloquently yesterday.  In the length of their relationship, until recently, marriage was not a word they used as it was not possible.  But in the last few years, things have changed radically.  When our friends Al and Stew married in Massachusetts last year, the ball began to roll.

I had mentioned to them that they might do the same thing.  They looked at me with surprise.  But, the ball kept rolling.  This summer on a long road trip, journey would be a better word, they married in Massachusetts as well, in a wonderful little church with about fifteen friends in attendance.  People who traveled that distance to be with them.  Unfortunately I wasn't one of them, not because I didn't want to be, but other things were going on in my life at the time.

Therefore, yesterday was very meaningful.  To see them surrounded by their church community and many other friends was significant.  They are much admired and loved.
The place was so crowded with people that I didn't even attempt to take photos after everyone began to arrive.  Other then the next photo of some new friends, Micheline and Michael who are  friends of Ron and Fred.
As I sat and reflected, as all the activities were going on, about the fact that Ron and Fred and I met twenty-three years ago on the beach in Puerto Vallarta, it was quite emotional to realize the journeys we all had taken during that time.  Some times together and sometimes not.

It's a testament to deep friendship, and sometimes silliness, that we have endured as friends.  It was great to see the end result with their marriage as they begin a new season of their lives.
Thankfully the best is yet to come.  Who knew twenty-three years ago that we would have traveled these roads together and be together for such an auspicious occasion?  NOT me!

Blessings, Ron and Fred!  You are good men who deserve all the happiness and love that you are receiving and will receive in the future.