There hasn’t been much to write about lately, but I thought “Merry Christmas” was in order for all our friends and followers.
Here in México, most people celebrate on Christmas Eve, or Noche Buena. That’s when families celebrate and exchange gifts. The big meal on Christmas Eve, or maybe Christmas Day, is tamales for the working classes and turkey for wealthier folks. Bacalao, or salted cod, is also a common holiday dish.
Leslie and I had a New Orleans-style shrimp dish for Christmas Eve, so nothing traditional but muy sabroso (very tasty) nonetheless. For Christmas breakfast, I made a nice scramble with pork and chicken tamales on the side. We’re going to two open houses today where turkey will be on the menu, so we’ve got traditions covered.
I will leave you with this fun poem, taken from one of the Facebook pages Leslie frequents. It’s meant for gringos living here in the Lakeside area. Enjoy! And if you have trouble translating some of the Spanish words, go to DeepL.com, which is my favorite translation program — better than Google Translate, and free also!
¡Feliz Navidad y Próspero Año Nuevo de tus amigos en Ajijic, Jalisco, México!
Thank you for your comments about the new landscaping in the back of our house. Leslie and I are really enjoying the bright colors. If you saw the video, you may remember there’s also an herb garden. We’ve finished the green leaf lettuce Enrique planted there, and we’ve enjoyed several great zucchinis! It’s really nice to have fresh parsley, thyme and rosemary. And I love making pico de gallo (known as Salsa Méxicana here) with fresh cilantro and limes from our own tree.
But we both noticed that the front of the house had very few plants and was, frankly, boring. Then one day, Leslie went up the street to visit our Méxican neighbors, Norberto and Monica. She liked what she saw along the driveway leading up to their house and asked who did the plantings. Norberto, one of the most helpful people I know, arranged for their gardener, Francisco, to take a look at our front garden space. Francisco speaks very little English, so Norberto translated for us and we explained what we wanted done.
We were a little surprised when we came home the next afternoon and found Francisco had already started working on the soil! We didn’t expect such a quick response. Normally, things take time here in México! But he got to work and got the job done in just a few days. Here’s a video:
We’ve heard lots of compliments from neighbors who walk past the house on their morning constitutional or walking their dogs. In time, of course, everything will grow and fill in so that you won’t see the dirt. Again, lots of color but some different kinds of flowers. We’re very pleased with how it turned out.
What’s the next project? Stay tuned!
Here’s an amazing photo. On the morning of Aug. 9, Leslie and I were enjoying a cup of coffee and reading the newspaper on our iPads when I looked up and saw a water spout over the lake! These are rare but they do happen. This one apparently lasted about half an hour, but I just caught the end of it. I was able to get a couple of photos from our terraza before it faded away.
It’s called a culebra in Spanish, and they can move onto land. If that happens it becomes a tromba, which can do a lot of damage. The local paper noted that in 1973, a tromba hit the east end of the lake’s north shore, killing 32 people and destroying many homes. Glad this one stayed over water!
Life is gradually getting back to normal here in Ajijic. Mask-wearing is mandatory only in health care settings and on public transportation. It’s optional everywhere else, and many people choose not to wear a mask. But we have two neighbors who recently tested positive for COVID, so we remain vigilant. We hope to be traveling again soon. One of our neighbors is suggesting a trip to Aguascalientes to visit a few wineries! And we definitely plan to be on the beach for Leslie’s birthday in October!
Yes, we’re still here and going strong. You just haven’t heard anything from Mexico since January, and there are some good reasons. The biggest is health issues — first for Leslie, then for me. I won’t bore you with details but we both spent some time in a hospital. Leslie was very sick in January and February. In mid-March — about the time she got significantly better — I got sicker than I’ve been in my life, and that lasted until early June. Now we’re both doing very well. We have some terrific doctors. Some are not-so-terrific, but you get that in the States too.
The other big reason I haven’t posted anything is because there was nothing to report! Nothing happened in the first few months because we were dealing with other issues. Now, however, I can show you our new landscaping, which includes a super little herb garden.
We hired Enrique and his crew to renovate the gardens, front and back. They put in a variety of flowering plants that should provide color all year ’round. He also reworked our front courtyard and it looks great. We wanted to replace the fountain in front because it was directly in front of the door and a few people almost fell into it when walking away from the door. Plus, it didn’t work anymore.
We thought about moving it and replacing all the tiles in the courtyard. Enrique had a better idea. His crew removed the fountain and replaced it with a tile medallion that gives the courtyard a whole new look while retaining the original tile and saving a lot of money. Enrique also moved a palm tree from the back yard to the front courtyard and added lots of color in the two north corners.
The herb garden includes rosemary, basil, thyme, parsley and tons of cilantro. There’s also some green leaf lettuce and two zucchini plants. I plan to add some jalapeño plants soon.
Here are some videos to show you what the new landscaping looks like. Turn your sound on because I’ve tried to provide some explanation, although I don’t know the names of all the plants. First is the front courtyard:
Next, here are two videos of the back yard. First is the new plantings, and second is a look at the new herb garden and our three fruit trees.
Leslie and I are enjoying all the color. We’re especially excited that we’ll probably never have to buy cilantro again! We tried to grow it when we lived in San Antonio — too hot. We also tried when we lived in Illinois. No luck there either. It’s going great guns here — but you would expect that, wouldn’t you?
Our timing was excellent on this installation. Enrique’s crew finished just a few weeks before the rainy season began. We get rain here at Lakeside generally from mid-June through the end of October. Most of the time the rains come at night, but this past week we’ve had a few days when it rained all morning. Highly unusual. I actually turned our sprinklers off because we don’t need them right now. It may not rain every night, but there’s rarely a gap of three days between storms.
Some of the big rains come from feeder bands of Pacific hurricanes. Most hurricanes make landfall farther south or they stay out in the Pacific. Some drift north and hit the Baja peninsula. I’m very happy that Fabian and his crew finished sealing the roof before the rains came. We won’t have to do that work again for at least eight to 10 years.
And finally, a picture of Ziggy and Marley:
I’ll close with some “before” photos of the landscaping so you can see the difference. I hope it won’t be six more months before a new post!
The holidays were very good for us here in Mexico. We enjoyed a visit from our daughter, Stephanie, and we had a great Holiday Open House to show off the home renovations and let Stephanie meet some of our friends and neighbors. Ziggy and Marley liked the attention Steph heaped upon them!
Having the Open House also forced us to get the artwork on our walls. Now we can show you the finished product — part of it, at least.
Here’s a short video showing the living room (no sound this time). We are particularly pleased with how the fireplace turned out:
You may remember there was a lot of purple in the living room, especially on the fireplace. We decided to make the fireplace the same color as the walls and add a row of tiles from our local vendor of Talavera style pottery and art. We hope to put more Talavera artwork in the front courtyard and on the patio. Love the colors!
Here’s what our office/TV room looks like now:
And here’s the guest room and guest bath:
There’s more artwork to install. Deciding how to decorate the master bedroom comes next. But with most of our art on the walls, Leslie and I feel much more “at home” now.
What’s next? Landscaping and an improved front courtyard. We know the fountain in front needs to be moved because it’s right in front of the door and a few people have come close to falling because of its location. We’ll be working soon with a landscaper to develop a plan, ensuring that we have blooming plants all year round and a nice herb garden as well.
A few photos below to show our Christmas decorations. And we hope 2022 will be a better year for everybody!
Lots of pictures and videos this time, not much text.
Leslie and I have a freshly painted house — inside and out! The painting crew, led by Enrique and Fabian, did a fantastic job. We were most impressed with the cleanup, both during the project and at the end. They even painted the propane tank blue to match the house!
So the outside is finished but the inside is a different story. Now we have to figure out where all the artwork goes. We may need to supplement our collection with a few works by excellent local artists. I’ll post interior photos when we get some of that work done. Hopefully it won’t be too long, but these are tough decisions!
We’re taking a short break from renovation now. Phase 3 should begin in the spring. That’s going to be upgrading the landscaping, much of which is overgrown, and renovating the front courtyard. Any large-scale planting will probably be done in May or June, closer to the beginning of rainy season.
Ziggy and Marley continue to grow and cause more problems every day. Ziggy loves to chew on our newspapers and on paper towels his fishes out of bathroom trash receptacles. And they both insist on playing with the laces on my hiking boots, which are on the floor in my closet. Do they have real kitty toys? Yes, we bought several! Oh, well.
Marley is definitely a lap cat, and Ziggy is learning as he gets older. They are still just three and four months old.
The painting on our house is almost done, and soon we’ll have great things to show you. But the big news from here is the two kittens — los gatitos — Leslie and I have adopted! Both males, Ziggy is only about two months old, while Marley is three months.
They came to us as Ziggy and Azafrán — not litter-mates but “best buddies” according to their foster caregivers, Kimrey and Juan. We really liked the name Ziggy, and it fits him! Azafrán is Spanish for “saffron.” It’s a pretty name, but it’s a mouthful so we needed to make a change for him. Many thanks to those who offered lots of great options. Our dear friend Jo-Jo suggested Marley so we would have Ziggy Marley! Thanks, Jo-Jo!
They are rescues and seem to love their new home. Of course, they’re kittens so everything is a toy! They come from the Lake Chapala Society, which has lush, beautiful grounds and a number of feral cats. These two are from litters born to those cats. Several other kittens were placed, and at least one of the feral cats has now been spayed.
Leslie saw photos of these two on Facebook and just couldn’t wait any longer to have cats in the house again. Marley reminds us both of our dear Max and Sam, our companions in Illinois. It’s going to be a lot of fun watching these two grow up, as we did with Max and Sam.
I hope we can share photos soon of the house transformation. Then Leslie and I will live for several months (we hope) without any renovation going on. There’s still work to do done, but we need a break! We think landscaping will be next, but probably not until spring.
More good news. I have taken on a new volunteer role that’s interesting and doesn’t take a lot of time. I am translating Spanish news articles into English for local weekly newspaper Seminario Laguna. Okay, not really “translating,” more like “editing,” which is what I do best.
The Spanish-language paper has two pages in English. Along with several other volunteers, I take assigned articles in Spanish, translate them into English using DeepL (which is an outstanding online translation tool), then edit the result so it’s more understandable to ex-pats and other English-speakers. I may get a chance to do some writing also.
Finally, a shout-out to the Chicago Sky, who just won their first Women’s NBA championship! It’s a great day for Chicago sports!
Our home renovation in Mexico continues! Interior painting has started. In about another week, the master bedroom will be pretty much the same color as the new bathroom and the laundry room. That will make the master suite all the same color. The guest bedroom and bath will be a soothing light teal.
But best of all, according to Leslie, is that we’re getting rid of the purple accents in the living/dining room. The main area of our home will be much lighter and brighter, and will accommodate a variety of artwork.
Once the inside has been transformed, Enrique’s crew will start on the outside. We hope everything will be done before the end of the year. Then we’ll turn our attention to the front courtyard and the landscaping.
The second phase of our home renovation has begun. All doors and windows have been replaced and the front entrance has been transformed from black metal sliding glass doors to a standard double door with side panels that open to let the breezes through. The fixed panels are now etched glass with a pattern that matches the windows in the new master bathroom.
Now we can start painting the house inside and outside, which is the second half of Phase 2.
Interior painting should begin by early September. We have chosen a nice neutral color that looks great with our artwork and rugs. The guest suite will be a nice light teal color with darker teal trim. We’re still debating about a color for the master bedroom.
Exterior painting, a nice light blue with white trim, will have to wait until rainy season is over. That’s probably early November. So we hope Phase 2 will be over by Christmas.
What’s next? Probably landscaping. We have a lot to do in the front because all the large plants were removed for the addition of the new bathroom. We also need to redesign the front patio and move the fountain, which right now is in an awkward place directly in front of the main door. Plants in the back are badly overgrown, so we need to look at that too. At some point, I’m hoping to renovate the office area, which doubles as the family room, or TV room. Phase 3 certainly won’t happen until 2022.
Sorry it’s been so long since the last post. Leslie and I have both been dealing with health issues that have restricted our movements. Nothing related to the current pandemic, gratefully.
Briefly, we’re both dealing with hip and leg pain caused by pinched nerves. Being limited physically as well as by COVID has been frustrating, but we’re both getting better now and we can refocus on the renovation of our house. As our San Antonio friend Joan used to say, “Gettin’ old ain’t for sissies.”
You saw the new kitchen last post. Now here’s a short video showing the other part of the project. Turn on the sound to get the play-by-play. Basically, we turned the former master bathroom into a laundry room and storage area (which got the washer and dryer out of the kitchen to give us more space there), and added a new bathroom. Enjoy the video!
There’s more to be done, though. New paint inside and outside is important, but we need to pick colors first and we’re not there just yet. We also want to replace all the doors and windows in the house. In most cases, this means simply replacing old black metal frames with white frames, like the new door from the patio into the kitchen. The major work will be replacing the sliding glass door in the front with a “real” door that’s more like other houses in Riviera Alta. We’re thinking of a double door with screened windows on each side that can stay open at night and let cool breezes flow through. It might look something like our home in Illinois. That’s coming later this year — don’t know when.
In other news, Leslie and I are eagerly awaiting our second vaccine jab in the next few days. However, we got the first jab back in mid-March and we’re concerned that it’s been too long since the first installment. So we plan to get an antibody test a few weeks after the second shot. If the results are not adequate, we will head back to the States to get one of the vaccines available there. We know several people who have done that.
Finally, we really hope to be traveling again by the end of this year, if COVID restrictions will allow. There’s a lot more of Mexico for us to explore and to tell you about!
Leslie and I are finally back in our home here in beautiful Ajijic, Mexico. We moved back in at the end of January and have been working on getting things in order. Our architects, Juan Allera and his daughter Cristina, did a great job. This renovation took longer than expected and cost more than expected. What did you expect?
This project grew from the original idea of moving the laundry back to the master bedroom closet area and updating the kitchen. We ended up adding a new bathroom on the front of the house and creating a full laundry room with lots of storage in the master suite — where most of the laundry is generated! We gutted the kitchen and put in new appliances and custom cabinetry.
This video gives you a basic one-minute tour of the bright new kitchen. There’s narration, so please turn up the sound:
This second video shows you some of the neat features Juan and Cristina built into the kitchen at Leslie’s request. Again, there’s an explanation:
We’re still getting the laundry area organized, so look for more videos soon!
Pandemic woes continue here. The governor of Jalisco clamped down recently, requiring those over 60 to stay home. We heard they were actually checking IDs at Wal-Mart to keep seniors out. Fortunately, we rarely go to Wal-Mart and the restriction does not apply to the smaller mercados where we shop. Masks are required everywhere. We’re both signed up for vaccination appointments but have not yet received a firm date and time. Can’t wait to have an open house and show off our renovation!