Wednesday, December 21, 2011

White Christmas in Mérida

My little neighbor lady Elsa has her house decorated with twinkling lights and the ever present light up Virgin de Guadalupe complete with music. I stand at my window at night peering across the street and listen to the sound of a familiar carol as her lights twinkle.
The Malls and department stores are decorated American style with sparkling trees, Santa and elves. While shopping, if the signage was not in Spanish and the carols over the sound system not in Spanish, I would think I was in any mall or department store in the States.
Beautiful poinsettias are everywhere, lining the edge of the cities fountains, only here the locals call them ‘’Noche Buena’’. Christmas tree lots sprang up overnight with fragrant beautiful noble firs.  
Calle 60, Mérida’s main northbound artery through centro has been reduced to one lane of traffic, as people spill over from the sidewalk, their arms laden with shopping bags. One man walking with multiple bags slung over his arms and a handmade twig manger precariously balancing atop his head weaves his way through the many pedestrians.
The Gringo Christmas parties have been in full swing, complete with a blend of Norte Americano Christmas treats and traditional local fare.
Yesterday morning I was treated to a walking three-man band, stopping to play at your door for a small propina.
Mérida is an enchanting city on any day but, add the sights, sounds and smells of Christmas and it is storybook perfect.
As for me, I am having a White Christmas in Mérida, as the polvo from our interior restyling covers every surface, and floats through the air creating an ethereal white wonderland. Instead of a fragrant pine Christmas tree, I have been selecting palm trees, bird of paradise, and blue agave for our hacienda style landscape project. Adie and I are here without Ty and even though we are a little sad to not be surrounded with our family this Christmas, it is my first Christmas in Mexico and it is truly a magical time!
Ty, Adie and I wish all of you a very MERRY CHRISTMAS………..

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Acqua Cocina Creativa

I celebrated my first birthday in Mérida and since I am twenty-nine AGAIN, Ty wanted to treat me to a relaxing and delicious birthday date. I chose Acqua Cocina Creativa. We head out for a late lunch, arriving at the restaurant about four thirty. The sun hangs low as we are graciously greeted by Fernando and shown to our outdoor table nestled under a stand of bamboo. The sidewalk dining area overlooks a quiet boulevard with several other restaurants in the area.   
Ty selects a midrange red wine and we have a choice of menus, Spanish or English, the Spanish version is much more romantic, but with the English menu we will know exactly what we are ordering! My mouth waters at the descriptive selections, it was difficult to decide given the variety of tempting appetizers and entrees.
To begin our evening feast we select a wonderfully spicy Tuna Tartare served with blue corn tostadas. Ernesto (the owner) comes by our table to say hello, he is a friendly and warm fellow who says mi casa su casa.
We enjoy the Acqua Salad of dark leafy spinach, pungent creamy goat cheese, crunchy sweet caramelized pecans and balsamic vinegar dressing.
Fernando and Mauricio place our entrees before us and the first thing we notice is the wonderful presentation, Ty has selected a creamy dish of gorgonzola cheese sauce, penne pasta and roasted tomato topped with large grilled shrimp.
  I swoon over the asparagus and bacon rice soufflé topped with slices of succulent duck breast in a dark balsamic thyme fig sauce.
The twinkling city lights, the soft breeze rustling the bamboo and our taste buds completely satisfied, Fernando tempts us with a scrumptious dessert and after dinner aperitif. We relent, not sure we have room for another bite, when the Cinnamon Almond Streusel arrives we do not hesitate to put away the entire dessert.
Chef Pablo Gomes

Lingering over our after dinner drinks, Pablo Gomes the chef who expertly prepares Maricela’s recipes, comes by our table, shaking Ty’s hand he inquires as to whether or not we have enjoyed the meal.
 Fernando and Mauricio
 Some of the staff of Acqua
Maricela has managed to carve out a comfortable dining experience with creative recipes and ample servings. Their staff’s attention to detail is impressive. We spent around a hundred dollars including tip, we had one bottle of wine, an appetizer, salad, two entrees, dessert and three aperitifs. While the restaurant decor is ultra-contemporary (not really our taste), inside can be a little noisy as it fills with people, the tables outside are relaxing and comfortable. Fernando inquires about calling us a taxi as he places our doggy bag on the table, Adie will be disappointed when we do not share.
Maricela and Ernesto have created a wonderful place to dine in our beautiful city and I believe the name of the restaurant says it all, Acqua Cocina Creativa.
Avenida 21 # 73 x 12 y 14
Colonia Mexico

Wednesday, November 16, 2011


We had the opportunity to meet Hamish through two great folks who became our first friends here in Mérida. Being just two doors down from our Casa Renta it was easy to bop back and forth for little visits. Hamish always greeted us with a smile and welcomed us into his home. He moved slowly as age had caught up with him, but his eyes reflected the heart of a youngster. I well remember a party at his house, in his quiet manner he greeted each guest and mingled with the crowd, when he had enough, he laid down, unfazed by the music and chatter of the guests. When I visited Hamish, with his crippled gait he would approach me with his favorite toy, wet with slobber I would tug gently and he would tug back.
Hamish passed away last week and left sadness in the hearts of our dear friends and in ours as well. I have thought of what a dog brings to human lives, of what Adie has brought to our life. The unconditional love dogs have for their human companions is never ceasing, the smiles that cross our faces as we watch them play and their unwavering devotion, we welcome them into our homes and they become a family member. They sense our emotions and alert us of danger. They simply love us and we love them back.

Rainbow Bridge
Just this side of heaven is a place called Rainbow Bridge.

When an animal dies that has been especially close to someone here, that pet goes to Rainbow Bridge.

There are meadows and hills for all of our special friends so they can run and play together. There is plenty of food, water and sunshine, and our friends are warm and comfortable.

All the animals who had been ill and old are restored to health and vigor; those who were hurt or maimed are made whole and strong again, just as we remember them in our dreams of days and times gone by.

The animals are happy and content, except for one small thing; they each miss someone very special to them, who had to be left behind.

They all run and play together, but the day comes when one suddenly stops and looks into the distance. His bright eyes are intent; His eager body quivers. Suddenly he begins to run from the group, flying over the green grass, his legs carrying him faster and faster.

You have been spotted, and when you and your special friend finally meet, you cling together in joyous reunion, never to be parted again. The happy kisses rain upon your face; your hands again caress the beloved head, and you look once more into the trusting eyes of your pet, so long gone from your life but never absent from your heart.

Then you cross Rainbow Bridge together....

Author unknown...

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

On A Sunday in Mérida

On an almost crisp or should I say less hot and humid Sunday in Mérida you have a smorgasbord of activities to choose from. You can choose to walk your dog along the beautiful Paseo Montejo, you can bicycle the historic streets of centro or you can head north to Colonia Chuburna to an open-air market called a tianguis. Since I am an avid estate sale and flea market shopper, that is exactly what a couple of my girlfriends and I decided to do. With the morning a comfortable temperature and clouds threatening at least a sprinkle or two, we head out shopping bags in tow to see what goodies we might unearth.
The pretty and simple red stucco church has parishioners spilling out onto the lawn, and the smell of street corn drifts through the air as we begin our expedition.
Many vendors have used clothing, which was clean, on hangers and in good shape, my friend Sara sorts through the clothes for interesting fabrics to make designer pillows.  Linda searches the new and used jewelry for interesting beads; she takes apart her finds to create new earrings, bracelets and adornments on her hand knitted pillows and shawls. I just like the thought of finding anything interesting. I buy a little cross body tapestry tote for 25 pesos and admire a large wood carving which started out being priced at 1600 pesos, but by the time I began to walk away the vendor had reduced it to 1200 pesos, with no haggling on my part. As interesting as it was, I passed it up.
What I could not pass up was at Alejandro’s plant stand where I bought a lavender plant and two tropical plants of some kind which were very reasonably priced.
After we had completed our tour of the tianguis, we stopped in to see Miguel at his vivero (nursery). From the street it looks like a small place with nice plants, truth is it is more like maneuvering through a well-kept jungle, flowers of every color lighting our way.

I choose two gardenia plants with fragrant white blooms and four bags of fine composted coffee colored dirt.
Our shopping complete and our tummy’s growling, Miguel suggests a cocina economica where we dined on hot off the grill chicken, tortillas and macaroni soup. Lunch including drink set me back a whopping 46 pesos ($3.50 usd).
I dropped my friends off and headed to Casa Sur for a wonderful Sunday siesta!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Casa Sur – Phase 1

Usually when we make a post on our blog, Sara does the writing, we both decide on the pictures, and then I post it. However, I’ve talked her into letting me write this one.The reason I wanted to write it is because I wanted to say a few words about my wife.
We started the additions to the back of our house in April and it was finished in early September. That’s over 4 months through the hottest time of the year. Now…..Because of my job, I have to travel quite a lot so there were many days when I wasn’t there. Sara was there every day (except the few days that she went into hiding because of the jackhammer). At the start of the project she spoke very little to no Spanish.
She greeted the workers everyday with a buenos días, she told them hasta mañana every evening. She made sure every night that there were plastic containers filled with water and put in the freezer so they would have ice the next day. When she cooked more than we needed, the extra always went to the albañiles. She knows every one of their names, whether or not they are married, and how many kids they have. She knows what they like to do on their time off and what sports they enjoy. She has eaten with them, told them jokes, somehow gotten across her vision of how things should look, and when needed she scolded them. I’ve seen her laugh over this project and I’ve seen her cry. The one thing that remained constant (a rarity here in Mexico!) was the respect that she showed these men working on our home and their eagerness to return that respect and make her happy with their work. At the end of this post is a YouTube link for a video that Sara made about the construction, beginning to end. Sara had a cookout for the guys when the work was finished and presented each with a DVD of the video. You could see the pride in their eyes as they watched the video detailing the work that they had done, all by hand.
I could go on and on but I’ll stop here, I think you get the idea of how proud I am of her. And…..Her Spanish is coming along pretty darn good now.
So, without further adieu……..You might remember how the back of our home looked when we started the project:

And then, like Sara says, how it looks after we ‘’made it our own’’:

In typical Yucatan tradition, each albañili left his hand print
Sara with her albañiles

Sunday, October 16, 2011

We’ve Always Been Crazy

Our friends and family told us, we were crazy to move to Mexico, later we were told it was crazy to live in the house while it was under construction.  You know what, they were RIGHT!!!!!!! Waylon Jennings said it best, “I’ve always been crazy but it’s kept me from going insane”.
Everyday progress continued on the building project, every day we watched as our dream began to take shape. Twenty-five feet concrete beams created the bones of the roof, below was a network of tree trunk support braces. Cement blocks filled in the gaps between the beams and cement poured on top created the roof.
 Chipped and smoothed by hand we soon had the arches we had longed for. With a hand designed and cut out metal jig, Julio artistically applied the arch moldings.
The mamposteria pool walls now smooth with concrete soon became a sparkling blue tiled swimming pool with a gurgling fountain.
 A combination of Ticul stone and white concrete created the floor around the pool and terraza. We decided we needed an outdoor cooking / grilling area because……well, you just do. And,that pool pump / filter equipment of course needed its own little house out in the yard.  
Our pool equipment / pump house
The forest of tree trunk braces came down revealing a large living area, the perfect place to dip your toes in the pool and enjoy a glass of wine. Paint, ceiling fans, chandeliers, all of the details began to come together! Soon we were roasting hot dogs for the albaniles on the grill under the French tiled roof. The day we had anxiously awaited arrived and the albaniles packed up their few tools, said Hasta Luego as they walked out the door.   

We moved around the new environment taking it all in, not believing it could actually be complete. Reflecting back on the dust, the noise, the lack of privacy, we really had lived through the process!  I relate it to having a baby; during labor, you think survival is impossible, then you smile at the little bundle placed in your arms and the pain of delivery is miraculously erased from your memory. It was worth it!
Oh, the pictures that go with this last part..........well, that's to be continued (real soon).................