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!

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.

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

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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.

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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.