More on the renovation

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!

Hasta luego!

The barn swallows have returned to Lakeside. Once again this year, some of them are trying to build a nest on the roll-down shades on our patio. We were able to prevent them from nesting last season and hope to do so again. They are fun to watch, though.

Home again!

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!

Hasta luego!

New Year, new digs

New kitchen cabinetry is in, painting is in process with white above and blue below. That space in the middle is where the new stove will be, with pull-out spice racks on either side! There’s also a dedicated space for trash, directly under the right side of the window.

Happy New Year to everyone!

Our renovation is almost done and, of course, it’s later than expected and a little over budget. What a shock! We have our rental until Jan. 15 and we hope to move back into our home by then. We’ve got lots of cleaning to do!

The next important thing is to get everybody COVID-vaccinated so you can come visit!

Accent tiles have been installed in the shower. Floor tile comes next.
Countertops and sinks go here, with a vanity for Leslie on the right side.

The washer and dryer will go in the spaces on the left. On the right will be a sink our housekeeper can use, as well as storage space.

Feliz Navidad!

Leslie and I will still be in our rental for Christmas. The upgraded kitchen and bathroom projects will apparently go into early January. Hopefully done by Jan. 15. So here are a few more photos of the renovation, along with a Merry Christmas to all!

The kitchen cabinets are in. A deep, single sink goes right under the window, with the new dishwasher in the space just to the left. The stove goes in the slot to the right. And the new window is a solid pane of glass, which offers amazing views of the lake, with a transom that opens to get cool breezes. This is going to be a light, bright kitchen!
Tile is going up in the new shower but they still need to add the decorative tile just above where the tile ends here, and finish the cubbyhole for shampoos and things.
Part of the new closet, with deep drawers and hanging space. There’s a similar space on the other side of the door into the bathroom. Lots of storage space above for suitcases and other things.

Home by Christmas?

Maybe. The renovation is on schedule. Work on the kitchen plumbing and electrical is done, as is the wall repair and painting. The appliances have been delivered and the carpenter is taking last-minute measurements for the cabinetry. So the kitchen, at least, may be finished on time.

The new addition is finished, from the outside at least, and the new facade is looking great. Envision, if you will, lots of plants growing on top of that half wall and a new gate with less steel and more style. We still have a lot to do on the front courtyard, but that comes later.

We’ve been picking out tiles and fixtures for the new bathroom, and the old bathroom is almost ready for the washer and dryer. I’m providing as many photos as possible at the end of this post.

In other news, Leslie and I always believed there was a bit of “magic” in our charming little village of Ajijic. Now the federal government agrees. Ajijic was just named a “Pueblo Mágico,” or Magical Village. It’s one of 11 new Pueblos Mágicos throughout Mexico. There are now nine in the state of Jalisco.

This program promotes tourism, especially among Mexicans. So there is some concern about how the village is going to handle lots of new turistas. Parking is quite limited in the village and there are not a lot of hotel rooms available. The upside is that local officials expect a number of improvements — most notably an enormous project to move all utility wires underground. That will likely take years to complete. We’ll see.

Leslie and I have been to several Pueblos Mágicos in the time we’ve lived here. We think this designation will be great for the Lakeside area.

Finally, the pandemic continues. We’ve heard news reports that Mexico has a plan for distributing the Pfizer vaccine early in 2021. We are in the third priority group, right behind health care professionals and people over 80. No discrimination — natives and gringos will all be treated the same. Maybe this is the beginning of the end.

Hasta luego!

Lots more counter space and storage space in the new kitchen. The stove will go in the slot you can see in the lower left corner. The fridge will go straight ahead, where the laundry used to be. That frees up lots of room to the right of the new stove.
The new laundry area. Washer and dryer will go on the wall to the left, and there will be a sink to the right that our maid can use when mopping the floors.
Our new shower. The hole in the wall to the left will be a nice space for shampoo and other products. Two sinks will be just to the right of the partial wall.
New appliances waiting to be installed.

Walls and ceiling done; no floor yet!

Today (Nov. 17) marks four weeks of construction and the new master bathroom is taking shape in our Mexican casa. It may not be quite as large as we expected but it will have two sinks with lighted mirrors, a walk-in shower with a rain-style shower head, and a vanity area for Leslie, with a nice boveda ceiling.

The two orange plastic tubes are for electrical wiring. You can see where the two sinks will be on the north wall, with the shower on the left.

The crew is putting in the plumbing and electrical, which means the floor is still dirt. They’re starting on the new laundry room and the new kitchen, too. We think everything is on schedule.

This is where the shower used to be. Once they level the floor, the washer and dryer will sit side-by-side in this space. There will be a floor sink to the right for our maid to use when mopping the tile floors. This will be where the toilet was.

We’re selecting tile, faucets, fixtures and kitchen appliances now. So many choices!

One huge change has already happened. The new master bathroom and kitchen renovation was Phase One. Changes to the front wall and entry into the courtyard was to be part of Phase Two. But our architect, Juan Allera, proposed doing all the work to the front entrance now because it made sense. I asked how much that would add to the total project. The figure was fairly low because it’s mostly labor, so we gave the green light. Most of the front wall is gone now!

Workers start taking down the front wall of the courtyard.

We still hope to be back in our house by Christmas, but some of the appliances are going to take a few weeks to deliver. Fingers crossed!

More to come as work progresses. Hasta luego!

Once the column on the left comes down, the guys will make everything look great. Then we will put planters on top of the half-walls with plants growing up to increase privacy. We removed the gate and plan to replace it. Design to be determined.

Walls are going up!

This is the “before” picture. Lots of changes coming.

The crew has been hard at work since Oct. 20, and the outside walls are almost done for the new master bathroom. The guys should be starting on the plumbing in just a few days. Then the outside work will be finished and they can start converting the bathroom to a laundry room.

Architect Cristina Allera has been working closely with Leslie to make sure we get all the nice touches, like a vanity in the new bathroom where Leslie can sit to do her makeup. Similar to what we had in our Westmont master bath.

Our excellent carpenter, Heriberto, is building the kitchen cabinets in his Guadalajara shop. We’re excited about having more storage space and more counter space.

The foundation of the new bathroom.
The window you see will be right over the two sinks. They’ve got about two more feet of wall to build. Eventually we will change the entire facade to get rid of the bars and the purple. That’s next year, though.

Here in Mexico there are no studs and no drywall. All walls are made of brick with cement/stucco over the brick. Trees are hard to come by here — bricks and concrete are cheap and easy. Plus, there’s no reason for termites to invade your home because there’s very little wood.

In another development, we both got Mexican driver’s licenses last week. Leslie’s Illinois license expired on her birthday (Oct. 16). There’s no chance we would go back to the States right now, so the option was to get a license from the state of Jalisco. So we both got brand new licenses, even though my Illinois license is good for a few more years.

We hired someone to get all the paperwork put together, then they walked us over to the license bureau where we took a 10-question test — all about road signs — in English on a computer. Then we got pictures made and in about 15 minutes we had our new licenses.

While the Lakeside area is still not seeing a lot of new COVID cases, the governor of Jalisco has clamped down because hospitalizations statewide are at a critical point. Leslie and I are still doing everything we can to stay safe — even avoiding friends we think are not being careful enough.

I will leave you with a few shots of the hummingbirds and butterflies that hang out in our yard. Our Canadian next-door neighbors Sharon and Quentin have two hummingbird feeders on their back patio. I’ve seen as many as 15 to 20 hummers over there, and most of them pause in our yard to dine on real flowers. They’re fun to watch.

More renovation updates coming! Hasta luego!

We get lots of hummers visiting our yard.
Unsure about the name of this butterfly, but we see it a lot. It may be a Giant Swallowtail.

Renovation begins!

Leslie and I are finally getting the renovation started on our house — six months later than planned. We hoped to have all the work done in April and May before we moved in. Because of the quarantine, our homeowner’s association did not allow workers into the neighborhood. Later, when that was allowed, we decided it was not a good idea to have people we don’t know coming into our house. We’re taking extra precautions during this pandemic.

Also, as we’ve lived in our new home, our small project grew bigger. The original plan was to get the washer and dryer out of the kitchen to gain more storage and counter space. We planned to get stackable machines and squeeze them into a space in the master bedroom closet, then update the kitchen cabinets with new doors and buy new appliances.

Over the last four-plus months we’ve started thinking bigger, especially after we found a few issues in the master bath. Now we’re adding a new master bathroom onto the front of the house, reworking and improving the closet and other storage, and putting side-by-side laundry units where the bathroom is now. We will also get a new linen closet and utility closet, neither of which exist now. And we’re gutting the 12-year-old kitchen down to the walls. All new cabinetry, all new appliances, more storage and more counter space.

In fact, the kitchen is already gutted and the bathroom will be gone in a few days. Everything was removed carefully by Fernando, who works as a gardener for at least two of our neighbors. Fernando is building a house for his family in Chapala on a shoestring budget, and he can use all the cabinets and appliances from our house.

We feel fortunate to have hired Juan Alera and his daughter Cristina as our architects. Juan has done home building and renovation for years in the Lakeside area. Cristina studied architecture at the university in Guadalajara (where one of her professors was her father) and for a year at a university in France. She speaks English and French in addition to her native Spanish.

Construction begins Oct. 19. Juan says it will take two months, but we’re allowing for three just in case. And since now we have no kitchen and no master bath, and things are about to get very dusty and dirty, we’ve moved out for the rest of this year. Again, we’re very fortunate to have rented a home right here in our neighborhood, just two streets down the hill. It will be easy to go back and get things we need, and to check on construction progress. We hope to be back in our house before Christmas.

Here are a couple of “before” videos:

Here’s the kitchen before the demolition. Lots of changes coming!
And here’s the master bath and closet.

We’re home

Villamartin 5-3
Villamartin 5 in Riviera Alta, an outstanding gated community. 

Leslie and I are finally home. After two years of being vagabonds in Europe and The Americas, and 18 months of renting apartments and homes in the Lake Chapala area, we have moved into our house in Ajijic, Jalisco, México.

We have a lot of work to do. First, a complete kitchen remodel. It’s a bit small, so we’re moving the laundry to a space in the master bedroom closet that we don’t really need for clothes. We’ll get a new stackable pair for that location, then move the refrigerator into where the laundry is now. That will open up room for more cabinets and counter space. There’s painting to be done (way too much purple right now) and new plants to add in the garden, and maybe a facelift for the front. But all of that will have to wait until we believe it’s safe to have contractors working in and around the house.

As for the pandemic, our little corner of paradise is no longer virus-free. As of Monday, July 6, there are 32 confirmed and 10 suspected cases in the Chapala municipality (similar to a county in the U.S.), which includes Ajijic. There have been two deaths. The good news is no new cases have been reported to the government in the past few days. There are roughly 50,000 people in the Chapala municipality.

The state government has loosened restrictions somewhat, but face masks are required in grocery stores, banks and other local businesses. Restaurants are allowed to serve dine-in customers as along as there’s adequate separation. We’re still getting food delivered to our house, though.

We’re debating whether to start in-person church services again in August at St. Andrew’s Anglican Church, but it sounds like most of our members are fine with waiting until later in the year. We’ve been doing a Morning Prayer service — Episcopalians will understand that — every Sunday morning on Zoom, and it’s getting better every week. We have anywhere from 30 to 40 people signing in, some from the U.S. and Canada.

New chairs-2
New upholstery, new paint job. Church is looking good!

The church is not wasting this time, though. We’ve already had big mirrors removed from the north wall of the sanctuary and the whole sanctuary painted. Instead of pews, we have moveable chairs, and until today they had brown upholstery that looked worn on most. Now they’re all a nice dark blue. We got 175 chairs recovered for 300 pesos each. That’s less than $15 USD each.

It’s rainy season here, so heavy thunderstorms roll through almost every night. If they hit before bedtime, we get to see the light show. If it’s 2 a.m., like many nights, then we roll over and go back to sleep.

I’ll leave you with more photos of our house.

Hasta luego!

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The outdoor space is great, with a super view of Lake Chapala looking west, as shown, and also east. We have all our meals out here. Bonus: The mural on the wall was done 10 years ago by local artist Efren Gonzalez. Extra bonus: The chairs swivel! 

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The kitchen is a little cramped. We have big plans for renovation that will provide more counter space and more cabinets.

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A neat bar area. There’s a similar space directly opposite in the dining room. The mirrors make the space look much bigger.

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Our living room. Not much of our art is on the walls yet. We hope to have painters come in soon, then we can put up more of our stuff. Did you notice purple here and on the bar area and outside? That’s going away. The sooner the better.

 

 

 

Quarantine update, and better roads

Leslie and I will be moving to our permanent home just a few days from now. You’ll get to see it soon!

But first, an update on the coronavirus here in our little corner of México. Officially, there are still no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the Lakeside community (as of 19 May). Good news: Our favorite liquor stores are open again, as is the dry cleaners. But we’re still doing church via Zoom, and we still can’t get our hair done — or for Leslie, get nails done. Soon, we hope.

Grocery stores are mostly open, but going there is not a very good idea. And you definitely don’t want to go to Guadalajara (where Costco and Home Depot are). So some of the locals with entrepreneurial spirit are offering food delivery. They bring groceries right to our door and Leslie can disinfect them as needed. Our new friend and taxi driver Paulino shops for us at Costco in Guadalajara. No problem getting toilet paper. And when the liquor stores in Ajijic were closed, Paulino could get wine from Costco — our favorite Apothic Red. Gracias, Paulino!

Locally, one food delivery group is called “Bogo (buy one, get one) Box.” If you buy a box of vegetables from them, they donate a similar box to a local family. We like that. The virus has hit this area hard, economically at least. Operation Feed, a local charity that gets food to the needy, has seen its client base more than double recently.

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Have you ever seen a watermelon radish?

Also, Leslie’s Mexican friend Hana has started a food delivery service. We’re getting things we never heard of before, all grown locally. Have you ever seen a “watermelon radish”? We’ve got ’em, and they’re terrific on salads. We have a big salad for lunch just about every day. No, they don’t taste like watermelon — they just look like watermelon. They taste like a radish. Very crunchy. They’re colorful and huge, just like regular radishes here. Local radishes at the tianguis (street market) can be as big as golf balls!

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 I made this salad with watermelon radishes. I used one-quarter of a radish in each salad, so a radish lasted two days. The biggest ones lasted three days!

I may have said before that one of the few downsides to our local paradise is the condition of the Lakeside streets. But over the past few months, the Jalisco (state) government has pumped lots of money into restructuring the carretera, which is the primary east-west Lakeside road. It’s been fully resurfaced and the bicicleta (or ciclopista) (bike lane) has been upgraded to the point that I’m thinking of buying a bike!

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This is the new bike path along the main road through the La Floresta neighborhood.

Before, the road was full of potholes and the bike/pedestrian lane was not well marked and potentially dangerous. The road has been resurfaced with asphalt from Chapala west to Jocotepec, and the bike lane now has a concrete barrier to protect bike riders and pedestrians. There are also street lights, new plants and crosswalks that didn’t exist a few months ago. Gracias, Gobernador Alfaro (thank you, Governor Alfaro).

Of course, most streets in the village are still cobblestone. And that’s not going to change anytime soon.

Hasta luego!

 

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Here you can see the bike path, as well as the concrete barrier for safety, new street lights and new well-marked crosswalks.