2022…and so it begins!

Happy New Year!

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!

Hasta luego!

The stockings were hung and the tree was trimmed!
A great place for our olive wood Nativity set from Bethlehem.

Kitten update, painting update, and Halloween fun

The front of the house looks great in blue, but we have more work to do before it’s finished. At least there’s no more purple!

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.

Here’s the back of the house.
A reminder of how the house looked when we bought it a little over a year ago.

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.

More next time! Hasta luego!

They just keep getting cuter every day.
Ziggy and Marley love to play-fight with each other. Of course, they’re kittens so they are easily distracted.
Some neighbors up the hill threw a party Oct. 31 for Halloween. Several people got their faces painted in the “catrina” style popular here on the Day of the Dead. Here’s Leslie — who got a “glamorous” catrina — with our dear friend Esther.
Our neighbors Stephanie (left) and Kate enjoy the Halloween party.
And finally, a whole-sky sunset from a few nights ago, panning from east to west from our “mirador,” a sitting area on the roof designed for exactly this.

Rainy season ending, and we have kittens!

We’ve missed sunsets like this one from a few nights ago. They are rare during rainy season, so this may indicate rainy season is over for 2021. Soon, the mountainsides will be turning brown.

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!

Ziggy (right) and Marley pose in a rare quiet moment.

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.

These little guys are constantly playing and wrestling with each other. Of course, that’s what kittens do! They take turns being the aggressor. I shot some video of them play-fighting, but it wouldn’t load properly on the Word Press image gallery.

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!

More photos next time! Hasta luego!

Napping in the office chair.
Sleeping on the couch.

Painting begins

It’s important to patch cracks in the walls before applying paint. This is an outside wall, so water gets into any cracks and creates salitre inside. This is normal in this area, but the repairs should last for several years.

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.

Hasta Luego!

Phase 2 is underway

New front entrance. The doors are made of perota wood, which is beautiful and resistant to termites.

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.

Here’s the old front entrance. Sliding glass doors. A friend came to see us once and said, “You don’t have a proper front door.” Now we do.

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.

We had several of these around the house, trying to decide which color to use. We went with the big square on the right for the living/dining area and the office. The exterior will be very similar to the small blue square, upper right.

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.

More photos below. Hasta luego!

The guys had trouble getting the old doors removed, so they ended up working pretty late to get everything installed for us.
New front entrance from the inside. More privacy, classier look.

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.