How the Queen of Mod in a Mini-Skirt Changed My Life

For years I wanted to be a U.N. interpreter. I studied Russian and German in high school, and saw myself traveling the world in diplomatic circles. During those years I researched colleges and knew that the University of Indiana was the place to go for languages.

Indiana in the middle of the country. No ocean there.

But I was willing to compromise and endure being landlocked for my larger goal of becoming THE interpreter  at the U.N.

That was my goal, announced to the world. It was my course for years.

Then it happened. It was a signal, defining moment,, one that made me shiver. I was filled with electric excitement, and I had found my true calling in life: I was going to be a fashion designer.

It happened like this: I opened an issue of LIFE Magazine, and there was a two page spread talking about, the Beatles, and a wonderful fashion designer, Mary Quant. It was the first time I had ever seen her. She was smashing in her clean lines, severe hair and strong makeup.

Mary Quant was wearing a mini-skirt, shockingly short, six inches above the knee-long compared to what girls wear today- but shockingly short for the mid 60’s.

She was stick thin, wearing a top and opaque tights that matched. Her mini skirt was a contrasting color. The photo was black and white so I have no idea what the colors were. But even in black and white, my mind was an explosion of color and heat.  She was standing slightly behind John Lennon, and was unaware that the camera had caught her adjusting the strap on her flat sling back signature  shoes  I had shoes much like them. And even today, I  would pair flat shoes with a mini skirt not stiletto heels. Her geometrically bobbed hair swung to cover one eye, as she leaned forward. And at the same time she  reached behind  her, her leg bent up at the knee so the could reach the strap of her shoe. Her  heavy, artful, makeup completed a modern, hip look.   Her look was called “Mod” and for me, Mod said it all, and encompassed youth, style, innovation and color. Until the day she died in 2001, my mother called me her Mod Daughter.

John Lennon was wearing a snap brim hat designed by Mary. And it wasn’t long before I had one or two hats like that .I learned to duplicate the geometric Sasoon haircuts and cut my hair and my friend’s hair  the same way. We painted our eyes to look fierce and our lips white. It wasn’t Goth it was Mod.

In that moment with the LIFE Magazine,  years of thought and preparation and dreams about languages and travel and the U.N. went out the window.

I had been sewing since I was very young, and I cut apart my mother’s New Look dresses with the miles of fabric in the skirts and made dresses and jumpsuits and realized what I had been doing all along was designing fashion.

My parents supported me and said as long as I was accepted to a good design school I could go.

There was no Google to search for Fashion Design schools. The guidance office offered  Rhode Island School of Design and Parsons and a few other technical sewing schools.  I applied to them and others.

On a trip to visit her Manhattan friends, our “aunties” who moved in fashionable circles, my mother announced,  “Susie is thinking of going to fashion design school.”

“Well”, said my Aunt Judy, “There is only ONE school for her to attend, The Fashion Institute of Technology right here in New York.”

After one of her New York weekends with her sparkling friends my mother would burst in the front door and say “Girls you’ll never believe who I met.” “Or kids, just wait till you see what Auntie Annette sent you.”

So when she returned from that trip the fall of my senior year of high school, she threw open the front door, and said “Susie, I found the fashion design school for you.” I knew then that I was on my way, New York, the garment district, design, fame and maybe even meeting Mary Quant.

And I did make it there on a full scholarship.

Eat Ice Cream for Social Change

One lone corporate voice standing up for the 99%. I copied this from the Ben&Jerry’s website.

To those who Occupy: We stand with you.
We, the Ben & Jerry’s Board of Directors, compelled by our personal convictions and our Company’s mission and values, wish to express our deepest admiration to all of you who have initiated the non-violent Occupy Wall Street Movement and to those around the country who have joined in solidarity. The issues raised are of fundamental importance to all of us. These include:

  • The inequity that exists between classes in our country is simply immoral.
  • We are in an unemployment crisis. Almost 14 million people are unemployed. Nearly 20% of African American men are unemployed. Over 25% of our nation’s youth are unemployed.
  • Many workers who have jobs have to work 2 or 3 of them just to scrape by.
  • Higher education is almost impossible to obtain without going deeply in debt.
  • Corporations are permitted to spend unlimited resources to influence elections while stockpiling a trillion dollars rather than hiring people.

We know the media will either ignore you or frame the issue as to who may be getting pepper sprayed rather than addressing the despair and hardships borne by so many, or accurately conveying what this movement is about. All this goes on while corporate profits continue to soar and millionaires whine about paying a bit more in taxes. And we have not even mentioned the environment.

We know that words are relatively easy but we wanted to act quickly to demonstrate our support. As a board and as a company we have actively been involved with these issues for years but your efforts have put them out front in a way we have not been able to do. We have provided support to citizens’ efforts to rein in corporate money in politics, we pay a livable wage to our employees, we directly support family farms and we are working to source fairly traded ingredients for all our products. But we realize that Occupy Wall Street is calling for systemic change. We support this call to action and are honored to join you in this call to take back our nation and democracy.

— Ben & Jerry’s Board of Directors

La Paz, The City of Peace, What I like and Don’t Like After Eleven Years in Paradise!

Boats pulled up on the beach along the Malecon in La Paz

When people observe the life of another person, it is through the filter of their own perceptions.

We all do it.  Haven’t you caught yourself saying something like: “They are so lucky, look where they live, they have more money than I, they must be so happy?”

When guests arrive to check-in to our  HoneyMoon Hut, they are weary from the plane trip and often the drive up from Los Cabos. But they see the view, hear the waves, the swish of the palms, and they are hooked.

After a day or two of our extraordinary sunrises, fire-y sunsets, romantic moon rises and have been swimming and sunbathing naked, they wonder why we want to sell our home.

They envy our lives. My husband walks to work along our beach. I write, and blog, sell real estate and have lots of friend. From the outside in my life looks perfect.

And as I was lying on the massage table on my terrace yesterday, I felt rich.  I had just had a long, luxurious massage and salt scrub. It was breezy, so we had gentle waves lapping the shore.

What a gorgeous feeling to lie there totally relaxed.  And at that moment, the full meaning of “paradise” filled my soul.

So here are 10 things I love about La Paz

  1. The people
  2. Beaches, beaches, beaches
  3. Wonderful affordable healthcare
  4. Tranquility and safety
  5. Those sunrises, sunsets and moon rises
  6. Sunday breakfast with friends at La Marmolera
  7. Root Beer floats at Tailhunter
  8. Nine months of a glorious climate
  9. Free Internet hotspots around town
  10. The culture of courtesy and respect

And here are some things that drive me crazy:

  1. Summer Hell heat and humidity ( August 15- October 1)
  2. Litter (there is a big recycling campaign in the schools, it is getting better, but it is still ugly.)
  3. Nutty drivers that do not heed traffic signs or rules
  4. Stray dogs ( or the  owners that don’t neuter their dogs, or care for them)
  5. Confusing Cell phone contracts and charges ( but I still love my iPhone)
  6. Potholes
  7. The bureaucracy
  8. Lack of good quality clothing at a reasonable price
  9. How long it takes to get things done, see #7
  10. No NPR and PBS

As I look over both lists, the good things clearly  outshine the bad things. And the sun is rising, the bay is calm, the air cool and the sharp salt-sea smell all remind me why I live here.

Another Convert to the Cult of Apple; I love my iPhone!

Shipwrecked iPhone! What a better way to show off my new baby then among some old Baja bottles and local shells

“Does it have an off-switch?” asked my friend Julie Sheehan. “Not that I have ever seen.” I replied.

We were having our weekly tete-a-tete over cappuccinos-extra hot, no milk, foam only and a  mini-muffin split between us.

“And” I said, “they can never be more than a finger length away.”

We were looking at Gari-Ellen’s iPhone. She was paying for the coffee and did not hear us. We sounded like two primitives seeing a Coke bottle in our jungle for the first time. You know, like the movie, The Gods Must Be Crazy.

Anyway, I had been thinking about taking the plunge to switch over to an iPhone. They look like a lot of fun and I hankered for one. Coming from Silicon Valley where new technology and gadgets are as important as a new pair of shoes, and having techi-geeks for kids and grandkids, I felt woefully behind the times without an iPhone.

That week my Flip Camera died, and the next day my digital recorder gave up the ghost. To replace the two single-function gadgets would be half the cost of an iPhone, and I would need a still camera and a phone. That’s a lot of junk to schlep around.

As an investigative reporter and a real estate agent, I need to travel light.

So I did it, I went to Telcel and bought a new iPhone. Well I had earned  a lot of points and did not pay full price. And they put the difference on my monthly contract. I am paying a little more monthly, but what an amazing tool/toy!

And in the last three weeks it has become indispensible.

Last Tuesday evening I was going over a purchase offer with my sellers. We wrote a counter –offer, but my scanner was being uncooperative, we needed to respond quickly since the buyers were getting on a plane to Seattle in the morning. So I took a photo of the contract then attached it to an email using my iPhone for all functions, sent it on to the buyer’s agent.

And like every other convert to the church of Apple, I say to all that will listen: “I don’t know how I ever lived without it.”

I can keep my documents in the Cloud, and us Air Print. It’s a camera, a calendar, it has a GPS and it’s an iPod.

I have downloaded apps to make it a flashlight, which I used to read the purchase offer on the way back to my clients home ( my beloved was driving), oh and I love the mirror app, since I have to  use eye drops every hour which often make my eyes tear,  I can quickly check to see if I have Tammie-Fay eyes.

And now they want me to turn it OFF! There is a movement afoot in Mexico asking everyone in the nation to turn off their cell phones for two days. We are occupying cell phone companies-virtually-in an effort to bring our pricing on a par with the US.

I just don’t know if I can do it…can you?

Coffee. The Elixir of Life

This is how my double mocha is delivered at Cafe Gourmet on 16h de Septiembre

Coffee! Just hearing the word, and I can smell that dark, sweet and rich aroma. Just say the word, Coffee, and I can taste it, hot, and strong and wonderful. Coffee, the elixir of life!
Coffee. There was a pot always brewing at our house when I was growing up. We used to joke and say our family coat of arms should have a hand passing a coffee cup.
Coffee. Even as I write this, I have a steaming mug of coffee at hand.
On our last day in the old country,( eleven years ago now) the owner of our local espresso shop said all of our purchases for the day were on the house. “ Well I do want to pay for the twenty pounds of coffee beans I just ordered.” Said I.
The owner was adamant: “ Absolutely not, this is our gift to you. You got out of the rat-race! Enjoy Mexico.”
And so we drove down the peninsula to La Paz, the truck was loaded to the gills. My coffee grinder, coffeepot, filters and mugs were at easy reach.

My daughter's name is Melissa, and she and I love to have coffee together. This sign is on a party salon in the La Posada neighborhood.

We knew about two espresso shops in La Paz, but we were not sure if they sold whole beans, and we- well I – wanted to be prepared.
One shop, Café del Tropico sold whole beans from their family finca in Vera Cruz, and their coffee was divine. They closed up shop about five years ago and decamped back to Mexico City.
We tried roasters here and there in La Paz, but were never 100% pleased.
When we have US or Canadian guests coming down to stay at the HoneyMoon Hut, we ask them to bring us some Starbucks, Verona Roast, whole bean ( decaf). But recently I re-discovered Café La Choya in La Paz. A tiny shop on Colima Street a few block past the police station.
There are no words to describe the elixir they dispense. That is where I buy my beans. Their location is not so conducive to meeting friends and clients. But the owner is charming and has 4,000 followers   including me  on Facebook!

This tiny shop is sparkling clean, they have their own roaster and their own blends. I love their coffee!

Espresso cafes have sprung up all over La Paz. Some are good some are passable. My drink of choice is known at many of the cafes in town, and the baristas just confirm if it is a caliente (hot ) or frio ( cold) coffee day.
My friends and I meet regularly at one of the couple of shops we call home. And when I make an appointment with my accountant, he asks: “At your auxiliary office?” And we both know which café that is!

My friend Gari-Ellen and I meet here to discuss the latest editions of her paper the Baja Citizen. I can never remember the name, so now we never call it by the right name. It is Sunspot, Sunflower, Sundance and on and on.

Coffee. Revolutions have been planned in the “Penny Universities” the other name for coffee shops, great novelists have been aided by the creative kick of caffeine, business deals have been struck, and romances bloomed and friendships were forged over a couple of double mochas.

Palm Tree Removal, The Not So Easy Way! A Tell-All Video.

First there were nine, then there were seven

There were nine stately palms that formed a dramatic backdrop to my house. They stood century over the  bare lot for  near to  30 years. When we  finished  the construction of our home we turned our eyes to the landscaping.

The palms had been painted once a long time ago and the trunks were discolored. So we painted them white from the ground up  about 45 inches.

They looked fresh and crisp and  old-timey tropical resort-like. A few weeks later we had a hurricane that blasted away the white paint! Not to be deterred, we  asked our gardener to paint them again. And they stayed nice and white for a few years. When they started to fade again, we  decided to wait till after Hurricane season.

Well we had no hurricanes, and the season had safely passed and our maid wanted extra work. She is a single mother supporting her 5 year-old son and her grandfather who raised her. She  is about to complete her teaching degree. We want to support her efforts any way we can and she said she likes to paint.

So the trees are crisp and white, but their numbers are only 7.

Our most dramatic  two trees are really a double trunk both rising some 20 plus feet and both slightly slanted like  the perfect tropical trees you see in travel posters.

A palm blight  hit our neighborhood, and the magnificent double palm died.

Fearing that it would come down on our house or the neighbor’s we asked our gardener to take them down. He hired someone to cut them down to  about the top edge of the white paint.

Then he and his son hacked, and chopped and dug at the roots and  only exhausted themselves, they could not budge the critters.

So he found two guys with a pick-up and more nerves than brains and more cerveza in their veins than blood. They assessed the situation, and went off to find a chain.

After hacking, chopping, digging, and then yanking the palms with the chain and the truck, they actually in a fit of frustration smashed their truck into the palm to dislodge it. And they broke their tail light!

So here is the video:

September 11 2011 My Thoughts From La Paz

September 11th 2011 La Paz Baja California Sur.

Like the day JFK was shot forty-eight years ago, September 11, 2001 is a day everyone will remember, they will remember exactly where they were and what they were doing when the news came of the first attacks at the Twin Towers in New York.

I was in La Paz, we had just returned from a trip to California.

I was watching CNN, the black ugly smoke was pouring out of Tower 1. And across the screen rolled the words that Secretary of transportation, Norm Minetta had closed all US borders and airspace. It was like an iron curtain had dropped and I was cut off from my country, my homeland, my family and friends.

I had plans to go segunda shopping for patio furniture with a Mexican friend. She understood completely when I told her I was too sad to leave the house. And to go shopping seemed frivolous in the face of what had happened in New York, at the Pentagon and in Shanksville, PA.

And I was afraid to go to town. Mexico’s fate is so closely tied to what happens in the US, I was sure the locals would tell me to go home and take my terrorism with me.

Just the opposite occurred.

My beloved works for a Mexican government agency. His colleagues were surprised that he went to work that day. They stopped in at his office, they sent emails, and they called, all offering their condolences. He did come home early, we were both too sad, and too scared to do much but watch the horror replay and replay.

We were building a swimming pool, and I had developed camaraderie with the workers and would ask them every day if that was the day I could swim. They would laugh and say “No, senora, maybe tomorrow.”

Our architect, their, boss drove out to the house to offer his condolences. I saw him talking to the men. Then a knock came, they were all lined up at my door and one by one they shook my hand, and said “So sorry, we are sorry.” They wanted to know if I had family that could have been hurt. I told them I had family and friends that could well have been at the Trade Center and I would not know for sure for many days if anyone I knew and loved was hurt.

In fact smoke and soot and debris rained down on my home town Atlantic Highlands, NJ, just a few miles by sea to New York City.

In the days and weeks that followed, everywhere I went, Mexicans would stop me and other Gringos on the street and take our hands and say “So sorry, we are so sorry.” My friend , the one I cancelled the shopping day with said there were no Gringos in town for a few days, it felt odd to her, but she understood how frightened and saddened we all were.

Ten years later we honored the dead, and the heroes of flight 93. They took a vote on the plane that was certainly going to be their death trap. They voted to take the plane down and not allow it to hit another target. Ten years later bagpipes wailed in New York and Pennsylvania recalling how many rescuers died.

Ten years later, we feel it like it happened yesterday.

May something like this never happen again…anywhere.

Beach Combing…La Paz Baja California Sur

This is me after a full day of beach combing!

One of the joys of living in a semi-rural beachfront house is the things that wash up on the beach, land in your pool or fly in for a visit.

I was interviewing a developer today when Coco-Nut Ibrahim Garcia, my darling Chihuahua started barking, growling and pawing at the patio door.
I looked out and saw this small white Ibis checking out my pool.

I let Coco-Nut out so he could see that the small bird was no threat. It took a while for the bird to register the noise Coco-Nut was making.
He lifted his wings and went over to our fence. And there he stayed so I could snap a few closeups.

A few minutes later he was back at the pool,. Intent on capturing prey, I thought he was going to fall in. These are shore birds, and are usually at the water’s edge.

Another day a few months back this funny little shoe-shaped boat washed up.
There it sat for a few days. I asked one of our workers to take it away. I could see it getting filled with garbage by beachgoers.

And on a Sunday last year a seaplane came whizzing by, made a pass over our house and then made a splash landing. The occupants hopped out and fiddled with the plane for awhile then started the motor which sputtered a time or two, finally caught and off they went.

Oh and look at these cuties that showed up around lunch time last winter!

And one day while walking along Pelican Point I saw this gorgeous, burgundy sea star. Since it was dead I took it home. Those are my recently pedicured feet

The Toe, The Pedicurist and The Dentist; Medical Care in Mexico

Back in December, I was in my studio sewing away when I heard a thump, a yelp, and an expletive or two. I rushed to the bedroom to find my beloved hopping around on one foot while grabbing the other.

“What happened?”

He said, ”I stubbed my toe on the %$#@ corner of the bed frame.” He flopped on the bed and moaned and groaned. I was mildly sympathetic and went back to work.

In the scheme of things in our life at that moment a stubbed toe was nothing. Little did we know that in less than two weeks we would be boarding a plane to Guadalajara with his cardiologist so that my mate of 29 years could have an emergency implantation of a pacemaker.

Back to THE TOE, it bloomed purple and red; the nail turned brown. The weight of the bed sheet was too much to bear—just like when you bite the inside of your cheek, and keep biting it for days, everywhere my beloved went, he bumped that toe.

“Soak it in hot water” I said.
“Go see a doctor “, I said again.

It was like spitting in the wind. My sage words fell on deaf ears. My interest in THE TOE was, well, let’s say, it was not rapt. I mean, I am in the middle of a particularly interesting segment of Project Runway when he wants me to look at his toe. Is he serious? So it went for months.

Some real tragedies intervened in our lives and The Toe was no longer center stage. I asked around, but discovered there was no podiatrist in La Paz.

Ah, but we did have a very good esthetician (beautician that also does nails). Her name is Rocio and she is a warm, funny, and talented woman. She agreed to try to work on THE TOE. On her first attempt, Rocio could not get near
THE TOE. The pain and related drama was too much.

After the shot of novacaine, waiting for the numbness to happen

So off to the doctor we went. The good doctor prescribed a heavy duty topical cream containing xylocaine. We bought the cream and headed to Rocio’s salon. She was ready with her foot bath and tools.
She applied the cream, crossed herself, and said, “I’m going in.” She did not get far. At her first tentative touch, my darling screamed in pain.

Well I was not letting this opportunity pass; we had him in the chair and his foot in the bath.

“Hey, Rocio,” I said. “Do you think the dentist upstairs would be willing to give him a shot in THE TOE?”
She cocked her head, thought a moment, and said, “Yes, I bet she would. Let me go ask.” So upstairs she went. And came back in a few minutes with a big smile and told us the doc would be right down.

And down she came with one of those giant, scary stainless steel horse syringes dentists love to use. She had two ampoules as well. She asked a few health questions; when she heard that my beloved had a pacemaker, she switched ampoules and fired away. I had to hold him down in the chair. I could feel his pain. But in a few minutes, THE TOE was numb and Rocio got right to work. Did I mention that there was a woman having her hair colored while this drama played out? We probably made her day.

So the cost? One pedicure, a blow dry for me, and the dentist’s visit: $400.00 pesos, around $32.00. The value: Priceless.

I had been trying for years to get my beloved to enjoy the wonders of a regular pedicure. He would not even consider it. WELL, now he is having monthly pedicures “for medical reasons”. Really, he will not admit he enjoys them, he just says he needs them to keep his feet healthy and he cannot bend like he used to. Whatever!

How to Beat Summer Hell in La Paz? Why With Sangria of Course!

Ingredients for perfect Sangria: cheap red wine, carbonation, fruit, and you

So what’s the climate like in La Paz? Well most of the year it is wonderful, a place where outdoor living is an art form.
And drinking icy-cold umbrella drinks is expected.

But my beloved likes to say we have five seasons here in Southern Baja:

  • Fall
  • Winter
  • Spring
  • Summer
  • Summer Hell

And what is Summer Hell you ask? It has nothing to do with burly guys and equally as burly girls on motorcycles. It is that time at the end of summer that you northerners might call the Dog Days, but worse.

From the middle of August through September the sun is broiling, the air is thick and steamy and there is nothing to do but escape into delightful, air conditioning. The air doesn’t move, and you wish you didn’t have to either.
This is the time when just hanging in the pool with a big sombrero and an icy glass of Sangria is about as much activity as one can and should muster.

Hang in the pool wearing a big sombrero and holding an icy-cold glass of Sangria

This is the time of year when even the most casual acquaintance that lives in town and doesn’t have a pool becomes my best friend!

I am a gregarious person. And I have a gorgeous beachfront home with a pool. I love to pamper my friends. And it is a lot more fun to enjoy the pool with other people around. So tomorrow I am having the first of my summer “Salad Days at Susan’s Pool” parties. I invited 7 other women to bring a salad and come for a swim.

I am making sangria. And here is the recipe:

– I used two bottles of a Santa Silva blend of Shiraz and Cabernet $90.00 (pesos each)
Other alcohol:
– I used 2 jiggers of Controy, this can be skipped or you can use gin, rum or Triple Sec
– I used Fresca; you can use anything from plain mineral water to any flavor carbonated water or citrus soda.
– 2 limes
– 2 oranges
– 1 grapefruit,
– Fresh or frozen strawberries (I use frozen so they act as ice cubes and do not dilute the brew. I am not a scientific cook; I splash, dash, and dump ingredients. So use as many strawberries as fit in the pitcher or look good to you.)
– ½ pineapple (Pina Miel) or you can use canned pineapple chunks and the juice.
– 2 tablespoons of sugar or a dash of simple syrup. (See simple syrup recipe below.)

Get a big pitcher that can hold two bottles of wine. Pour in the wine. (Or use two smaller pitchers and put half the ingredients in each.)

Squeeze the juice of the two limes, two oranges and one grapefruit into the wine. Remove the seeds first! Then dump the squeezed fruit in the pitcher.

Cover the pitcher and refrigerate.

Just prior to serving add the carbonation. This is where the fun begins, add the flavored carbonation to suit your taste.

Taste with a spoon, don’t get sloshed while preparing the sangria. Otherwise you may be a bit wobbly on your pretty flowered flip-flops with a tiny heel and drop the pitcher in the pool.

Add the frozen strawberries. Remember they act as ice cubes so let them plop into the glass as you pour.

Garnish the glasses with a lime or orange slice or even a paper umbrella.


Simple syrup:
1 cup of sugar and one cup of water, boil till sugar dissolves. Let cool.
Sweeten the sangria to taste.