Mexico, I love the Sun, Sea, People, Food, BUT…

 

The vanity in my outdoor snail bathroom.

Life in Mexico is sweet, slow, and warm. When I say warm, I refer not only to the sunny climate, but to the people. Mexicans are among the happiest people in the world. They are gracious, and welcoming. A goodly portion of the expats here have developed a laid-back and open attitude as well. And the food! Oh what a luscious delight is a taco or tostada eaten at a roadside stand. The ingredients are made fresh that day. And each stand has a different taste, depending on the family recipe. Oh yum!

Then there is the other thing… or things. Things that you cannot find.

When one wants to make a new recipe. Try a new sewing technique. Or do a little DIY. Frustration sets in. There are things that you just cannot find. Or have to go on the hung asking others if they have seen such. Or if they know the Spanish word for this.

I have a lovely, snail shaped outdoor bathroom. I hardly used my longed- for snail bathroom last summer and I have no excuse. This year I have decided to use it regularly, and to ask my pool guests to use it rather than track water through the house. I have been swimming in the early morning and then showering out there. The early morning  sun is intense,  the early Spring air is crisp,The sky is BLUE. It is lovely. Doing this is what I dreamed my Mexican life would be like when we finally retired. We have been here 17 years. I had a makeshift outdoor bath in my first house, a full enclosed very nice pool bath at my beach house. But now I have the dreamed-of outdoor snail bath. I never really decorated it, and made it mine. Who knows why.

The snail bath freshly painted and not quite ready for use.

I spent Saturday and Sunday cleaning it up, adding sweet yellow pots of jade plants, re-hanging the shell mirror, replacing the inefficient rain shower head with a hand held shower, and then adding Talavera soap and lotion containers. Pouring liquid soap into one was easy-peasy. Done in a flash and not a drop spilled.

Getting the hand lotion into the other dispenser

evening shot of the snail with a beeaded curtain for romance and a sombra cloth curtain for privacy.

was a task that drove me crazy and was shelved ( well actually stuck in a corner of my indoor bathroom cupboard funnel and all for over a year).

 

I like pretty things. I like my guests to have pretty things at the ready when they need them. Like hand lotion in a lovely dispenser.

 

 

Last year I tried pumping from a bottle of lotion into the new dispenser. What a mess!

The lotion clogged up, mounded up, and rolled down the sides.

I tried a funnel. That just got more lotion piled up in the funnel and going nowhere. I mean molasses goes faster uphill in January.

I was thinking of nuking the hand lotion bottle, but since my last microwave experiment, My Beloved comes running when he hears the buttons chiming.

So I visited Google. There was a 10 -minute video on filling a lotion dispenser. Skipped that one. Then there was a video showing a cello cone that is like a disposable pastry bag. None on hand in my house, and I am positive there are none available in La Paz.

Next tutorial shows a special icing baster. Hmm, Solution Cake the cake decorating shop might have one if I would like to drive 30 minutes to town and spend another ten parking. Well actuall until after my eye surgery, if MY Beloved wants to drive 30 minutes to town and spend 10 minutes lookingfor parking. Not happening.

Who said “The third one is the charm?” They are right.

The third video said just glop some lotion base in a jar and nuke it. But don’t let it get over 120 F.

Okay, I now had a plan.

  1. Find cooking thermometer in the gadget drawer
  2. Fill larger Pyrex measuring cup with water
  3. Nuke the water for two minutes. Also yell “ It’s OK honey, I am only heating water!”
  4. Check temperature. Note: do not test the water with your finger, that’s what the thermometer is for.
  5. Stand the lotion containers in the hot water. For a little while.
  6. Pump the now-liquid lotion into the funnel (less mess) Voila! The dispensers are filled.

I used two almost empty lotion bottles and part of a new one.

Have a lot of old napkins or paper towels on hand, this gets messy.

Now, how to label the dispensers? I looked through my collection for two small shells, none did the trick. So, I rummage in my button box and found two nice buttons and some silver cord. I tied the cord around the necks of the dispensers, thread the silver through the buttons, and knotted it, and added some small labels with the words soap and lotion in Spanish and English.

Oh how pretty they look. Dontcha think?

 

 

La Paz Saturday Farmer’s Market, Meet Friends, Buy Goodies, Drink Coffee

The La Paz Farmer’s Market; Open All Year,  Come Taste, Talk and Buy.

 

farmers composite big

Come Saturday morning, after our years-old tradition of breakfast with friends, my Beloved and I head over to the La Paz Farmer’s Market. It is part of our Saturday thing. Not only are we loading up on wonderful fruits and vegetables, salsa, pesto, artisan Tequila, homemade breads, we buy plants, organic pest killers and fertilizer, jewelry, greeting cards, and healthy Chinese treats.

The Saturday Farmer’s Market is a social occasion and we spend time chatting with the vendors and the other buyers, meeting new people, and just being out and convivial. But the market is also open for your convenience on Tuesdays.

Farmers market 1

Have you tried any of Linda Shawyer’s Greek yogurt made from the milk of local, grass-fed cows, zesty Italian sausage, or any of her magnificent quiche? Linda always has a smile and kind word and scrumptious goodies. Her cinnamon rolls are dangerously addictive. Linda says that, “…I like to make food that makes people happy…”

Martin Loubet always has a long line at his produce table. My Beloved is dispatched to stand in for me and choose the goodies. Martin has land and a farm in Pescadero. After Odile, he showed up with what few things did not get blown away. And we bought what little fare he had, in praise of his efforts to pick up and keep going. Always smiling, and helpful, Martin and his wife and daughter walk the line at their table and ensure that everyone is served. You never know when different fruit or veggies that you have never seen before will pop up on Martin’s table.

When we first moved to La Paz, I whined a lot about not having a farmer’s market. Our not-so-little market has grown to encompass many different items, home grown and homemade. And on any given visit, there will be the mainstays of the market and newcomers. The presentation of goods is a rich, colorful motif in creativity and the bounty of Mother Nature.

Farmers market 2
My market haul

 

And then there is Kayle, a laid-back guy from Pescadero that also has a groaning board of interesting and hard to find items, like luscious blueberries, dates, organic popcorn, shelled, fat, sweet green peas and the most wonderful selection of greens for salads and juicing. Kayle treks up to La Paz on both days of our market.

Cathy Smith, the Gardening Guru, also hails from Pescadero. Cathy’s products are certified by the Baja California Sur state government as 100% ORGANIC. This is not an easy designation to come by. If one could bank Cathy’s enthusiasm and know-how, they would be rich as Midus. Cathy has an array of organic pest killers, mosquito repellants, fertilizers, and is happy to advise and consult.

Not all the vendors mentioned here are out on the street. There are one or two shop owners that are important threads of this wonderful tapestry of food, plants, and crafts. The market has provided the traffic and interest in things other than the commercial and homogeneous. These shops are a wonderful addition to your Farmer’s Market visit and to the town on any day.

Doce Cuarenta Susan
Author enjoying a Cortado and granola at 12.40

Got Baja? Enrique Sanchez #2 and his wife, Cecelia, certainly do. They are the owners, and creators of the gift shop, “Got Baja” and the espresso café, “Doce Cuarenta” (1240 Madero), named for their street address. This wonderful little shop, café, and garden is the center of the Farmer’s Market. My Beloved is hooked on their Ruben sandwich and I will never get tired of their signature salad, Doce Cuarenta. All things La Paz and Baja, from stunning mounted large photographs of Baja scenes, feed sack throw pillows that say “Cuddle with this pillow if you miss La Paz too much”, to t-shirts and mugs. Whether you want a rich pastry, a light lunch, hot or cold-brewed espresso, this is an important part of your Farmer’s Market experience.

Lolita Pie Boutique on March 14th, my number one daughter sent me an email saying it was Pie Day and had dispatched her Beloved to find a luscious pie.  March 14 is 3.14…get it? Well, you do not need to wait for next March to experience decadent, delicious, warm-from-the-oven pies. Just step around the corner onto Constitucion near the Aramburo parking lot and visit Lolita’s Pie Boutique.

Karuna Tea House is also just around the corner on Constitucion, a charming and welcoming place to rest and enjoy. Husband and wife team Ines Garcia and Hector Jaime Felix offer private tea tastings and a few tables for you to enjoy a cup of one of their specialty teas. Ines also has a table at the market and offers refreshing iced tea and some cakes. Stop in and sip a cuppa and meet these lovely young people.

Talking on the phone to precious daughter, the other day she said she was running low on her Baja salt collection and hoped there was still someone selling flavored salts at the market. I told her not to worry.

La Parcela Productos Gourmet. Visit their booth or their shop. It is a treat for the senses. Shop owner Christian, displays his aderezos and especias (herbs and spices) beautifully and is knowledgeable about his products. He carries everything from cacao, vanilla, various salts, and Himalayan salt tabs. Visit him at the market or at his store on Allende between Revolucion and Serdan.

El Jardincito. Owned by Enrique Sanchez #1 (the other guy’s father) is the place to buy healthy, organically grown plants, herbs, and a few gifts like blown glass hummingbird feeders and some handmade fiber pots. Want a ready-made herb garden? Enrique has them. Looking for a particular plant? Enrique will try to find it for you. This spring, he had the most gorgeous, vibrant, and long-lived tulips. Enrique has two passions in life: running and raising organic plants. In fact, he came in first in his age group in the half marathon and first again in the triathalon in Cabo San Lucas.

Queen Bees owner Juana Agudo sells honey, honey drops, and lollipops (better than a cough drop). Always ready with a smile, Juana is happy to offer a sample. Her products are diverse and well-priced. Not just a pretty face, Juana is a bee expert. She came to my house, suited up in a beekeeper’s rig (scared my chihuahua) and very calmly and professionally removed a hive of wild bees.

Dora Burgoin of Organicos Cabo Natura comes from Cabo San Lucas twice a week with her wonderful, colorful, purple and yellow cauliflower, flor de calabasa (squash flowers), heirloom tomatoes, and greens. You cannot miss her in her Mexican gauze dresses, colorful scarves, and straw hat. Her produce is beautiful and tasty.

Bella. When I was a kid, my Italian mother always called me Bella. Beautiful. Well, French food at the level that Bella makes it, lives up to her name! I have heard that her gluten-free Tarte Provencal requires that you sign a release form in case you become addicted. Oh, and her lemon squares have an equal reputation. Provecho!

It is a good thing there is not the most convenient parking at the market. Hoofing it a little bit will help to burn off the calories from all of the food you have tasted. I mean, I do not want to be rude, if someone offers, I taste!

 

La Lei. Lei Tam, chef and Asian food genius, has caught me hook, line, and Pad Thai! I have tried most of her offerings. Her Chow Mein made with wide brown noodles and an array of vegetables is as pleasing to the eye as it is to the palate. Oh! And those Vietnamese Summer Rolls… Well, they are a mainstay at our house. Lei makes all of her own noodles and sauces. She can even make the Chow Mein and Pad Thai vegetarian and gluten free. Lei, with advance notice, will make dishes for you to pick up at the market. Or she will be the private chef at your next party. But, please invite the Press!

Dear readers: Many of you may remember the trendy Café Milano on Izquierda Street. Lei was the chef. Her husband Michel, the bread maker, helped her. We watched their beautiful daughter Asia (“Ahs si ya”) grow up. Lei says “Italian design, Chinese built!”

Grateful Bread, Michel Milano, artesanal bread maker, arrives on a Vespa. Sets up his breads, round and long loaves. Crusty on the outside, white and delicious on the inside. He tempts me every week. I have to resist, once on the lips, and boom it’s on the hips! But others give in and I see his wares flying off the table.

They started calling it “Eat Street” because so many restaurants have made their homes on Madero Street. But on Tuesdays and Saturdays, it is Meet, Greet, and Eat Street. La Paz, this Farmer’s Market is yours. These are your friends and neighbors. They are cooking, baking, stirring, and harvesting to bring wonderful foods to you. Please continue to support them. The market is open all year.

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Structure Your New Life: Five Ways to Perfect Your Transition to Paradise

Photo by Claude Vogel of MexSense
Photo by Claude Vogel of MexSense

Structure Your New Life: Five Ways to Perfect Your Transition to Paradise

One of the most stressful events in anyone’s life is moving, even if the move involves giving up your workaday life and relocating to live the life of your dreams in a beachfront home in sunny La Paz.  The vision you had of yourself and your spouse sipping frosty margaritas while surrounded by a group of charming new friends probably did not happen in your first weeks. Instead, you were likely feeling overwhelmed by the hard work you did in order to set up your phone and electricity, and hire a good gardener, maid, and pool service.

For most expats, life eventually smoothes out, they make friends, and they relax and start living on Mexican time, but if you want to get to “eventually,” a little bit sooner, here are five things you can do to make your transition more pleasant.

  1. Learn some Spanish. Enroll in a class at one of the Spanish schools in La Paz. Not only will you improve your knowledge of the local culture, you’ll also meet people much like yourself. (Se Habla La Paz Spanish immersion school (tel: 612 122 7763, email: info@sehablapaz.com, web: sehablalapaz.com) and El Nopal (tel: 612 188 0577, web: www.elnopalspanish.com)

 

  1. Go Local: Take to the streets and use what you’ve learned, even if it means carrying a dictionary (there is an app for that) wherever you go. Whether you’re in the bank, the grocery store, or your favorite café, greet people with a smile and a friendly “Buenas dias.” Look people in the eye, learn their names, and tell them yours. Shop in local stores, or just spend a Sunday evening strolling along the Malecon. Paceanos are a friendly bunch and will respond in kind.

 

  1. Volunteer: There are all kinds of groups that have mixed Mexican and foreign members. Volunteer to serve breakfast to kids from the barrios with FANLAP (tel: 612 121 2166, web: www.lapazninos.org).  Walk or foster a shelter dog .

 

  1. Start a Group: You came down here to have the time to pursue your interests, and many others did, as well. Tell people you want to start an organic garden, a tango club, or a gourmet club. Form a film club and trade reviews of the latest movies. People bond more easily over shared interests, and soon, you’ll be surrounded by friends. Sign up on the  La Paz Gringos forum: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/lapazgringos/

 

 

  1. Celebrate! Holidays and rituals are an important part of every culture, and taking part in local traditions is crucial to becoming part of a community. Head to the Governor’s Mansion on the evening September 15th to hear El Grito (the scream) – the annual recreation of the call for independence.  Visit the Teatro de la Ciudad on November 1st and experience an authentic Day of the Dead festival. Love a parade? You can see one every day during the annual pre-Lenten festival Carnival (shoes optional, shirts required.)

 

These are just a few of the ways you can ease your transition from turista to ciudana (citizen). Wondering why this is on a real estate page? It’s simple: when you buy  a new home, you’re not just purchasing a structure, you’re structuring a new lifestyle.

Mr Sandman, Send Me a …

A picture is worth a thousand words. And this picture says it all!

In years past  right about now, we would be packing, and preparing for our annual visit to the frozen north, well Dallas or Thousand Oaks to spend Christmas with one or both of our kids. For us the temperatures in Texas and California are chilly to downright frigid.

We soldier through the torture of multiple airports, and plane changes, and arrive dragged out and hungry. But the ride from the airport is always a nice re-entry. Christmas lights are everywhere, and we love turning into Miss Meliss’ neighborhood and circling the park that is ablaze with lights.

Once we get past the exuberant welcome from the million, well three dogs, and sometimes a foster dog, the delicious aroma of slow cooking food enters our consciousness. The house is beautifully decorated and the tree is lit waiting for its ornaments. Decorating the tree is something Miss Meliss and I do together.

We take our coffee and dessert to the living room and sit by the fire and plan our days.

We always have a shopping list, things like underwear and shoes top the list. For me visiting fabric stores is an absolute.

We talk about who will be dropping in, and who will be staying for dinner.

Then it is up to bed where we bury ourselves in the quilts Melissa has laid out for us.

“It’s not cold!” she says. And we grumble back that we are freezing!

One year we had snow on Christmas Eve, it was romantic and the house looked gorgeous with the lights shining on the snow and the decorated tree in the window. Earlier in the day we drove around in the snow to finish up some shopping, I was nervous. Not that my Beloved could not handle snow, he grew up in Chicago, snow he knows. And we were driving a Subaru with its famous all-wheel drive. It is all the other drivers that have no clue how to handle the snow that made me nervous.

This year? Events conspired against us. We are not going north and no one is coming south for the holiday.

We are all disappointed of course. BUT! As we watched Dallas become a frozen snow globe, and saw travelers stranded in airports across the nation, we felt relief that we are not going to be part of THAT.

Just last week I was swimming in my pool, and drying off in the sun. I sat in the sun to do some hand sewing, and had coffee outside. We have had some stiff breezes, well, okay, wind, so I have not been in the pool or done much outside. But, the winds will lie down, and the sun will shine and I will count my blessings…and have several Facetime moments with Miss Meliss.

Notes From Big Pink: How I Broke My Ankle

This is the first in a series of missives about trying to function for the next EIGHT weeks in a cast. This one is long, it sets the scen.

Here is where I will be sitting with my laptop at my side:

Aaaah, La Paz! There are good days and there are bad days.
On the good days, the sun is shining, the air is cool and tastes of salt, the sea sparkles and the espresso comes to the table hot, with the foamed milk just right, and maybe there is even a flower drawn in the milk.
After 12 years in La Paz, my blood has thinned, I have acclimated. What was once “sweater weather “ in California, and may feel downright balmy to those of you from northern climes, it is bone chilling for me.
But last Saturday, the sun was shining and the sea was sparkling, we had just finished breakfast at Maria California , where they always draw a flower in the foamed milk of my double decaf, extra hot macchiato.

We decided to take our precious Chihuahua Coco-Nut Ibrahim Garcia for a walk on the Malecon ( ocean front promenade)
And then it happened.

After our usual Saturday breakfast with friends we braved the cold to take Coco-Nut for a walk on the Malecon. I tripped on a step fell and broke my ankle. That was six days ago. I will be in a cast for 6-8 weeks.

At first the pain was so excruciating, I was writhing on the ground screaming in pain.
It slowly subsided. I could wiggle my toes, and my foot was numb.
“ I think I broke something.” I wailed to my Beloved.
“Well maybe not”, he said, “since you can wiggle your toes.”
I sat and considered my options for a moment. The car was parked nearby, like a bright yellow beacon it sparkled in the January sun. It was little more than the length of a crosswalk away.
My Beloved held me and we hobbled to the car. By the time we got home I could not put any weight on my foot.
Luckily Salvador, our gardener was there and he helped my Beloved, Ira walk me inside. I took some Tylenol, Ira wrapped my ankle and iced it with some frozen peas. ( still in the bag)

Salvador finished his work, I took a nap in my pink chair. Ira napped in the bedroom.
Then Salvador came flying in our front door yelling for Ira.
The same weird man that tried to get in my house last week was sitting on the chairs in front of the casita taking off his clothes! Salvador was driving past when he saw him. And he knew it was not our present guests because he makes a point of meeting all of our guests ( they all are charmed by him).
The guy walked off and down the street. And there ensued one of our famous neighborhood mobilizations. But he always disappears into the wind. We have called the police, but they did not get it, that this guy is a nuisance and needs to go to a mental hospital. When I called the police they thought I said that Ira needed to go to the mental hospital!
So when the clamor died down we decided I should go to ER. .
Ira looked up the word for wheelchair so that when we got to the ER he could tell them what he needed.

Tomorrow, I will amaze you with the  prompt, personal and inexpensive medical care, at a private hospital.

Blowin’ in the Wind: My Patio Furniture!

It was still dark, but the sky was starting to lighten.And the remnants of last night’s storm gave us this gorgeous sky.

Just after sunrise taken from our terrace in El Comitan

Something woke me. A bump or the sound of something being dragged. I saw a flash of lightning, so I turned over and tried to sleep a little longer.
There it was again, like someone was in the house or on the roof.

“ Did you hear that?” I shook my Beloved awake. “Someone is in the house!” “ Get up!”

He took a moment to pull on some shorts and slip his feet into slippers. I got up to get dressed and find a weapon to help my Beloved. The dog jumped off the bed, but did not bark. He was following me into the dressing room. I pulled on a robe and a pair or mismatched flip-flops. I grabbed what was at hand for clothing and shoes in-the-dark. No time to be a Diva when someone could be robbing the family silver.
My Beloved was already in the front of the house, I could still hear bumping but not a word from him.

I grabbed the heavy flashlight from my bedside and went out to the main part of the house. He was there looking out the patio doors.
“It was probably that bucket right there.”
The little blue bucket was sitting upright, exactly where he had put it the night before.

“ No way that little bucket made enough noise to wake us. And it is right where we put it last night.”
“Well it is windy.”
This is male logic: A tiny bucket that has not moved from its place near the pool made noise loud enough to startle us awake, twice. In other words he had no idea what made the noise and illogical as it sounded, he blamed the bucket. Once when we still lived in San Jose, CA our backyard sensor lights came on in the middle of the night.
I called to him:
“ Sweetness, there must be someone in the backyard, the lights came on, go check!”
“ No dear, don’t be silly, it must have been a cow walking by.”

I am not making this up! My scientist husband, said a cow walked in our back yard. We lived 2 miles from downtown San Jose. Ours was an urban neighborhood with nary a cow, nor a plot of land big enough for a cow to turn around in.
“ A cow? A Cow?” I asked him twice.
He just looked at me as if I were speaking an unknown language and walked away.

So why am I surprised that he would say that a little plastic bucket we bought to keep near the pool so we could empty the strainer into it instead of piling dead bougainvillea leaves on the side of the pool that would only blow back in when they dried, that little bucket woke us? No Way!

Seeing that in fact we were not the victims of home intruders, I went outside to take pictures of the gorgeous morning sky. The breeze was heavenly. Well actually the wind was heavenly.
I opened up all the doors and windows to let the fresh air in.
When I opened the door to our “Spa Terrace” I saw this:

This is what went bump in the wee hours.
This terrace is my refuge, I like to meditate here, I like to sit and enjoy a coffee, the city lights, the moon, the silence. It is always beautifully arranged in a cozy grouping. The chairs have lime green cushions with striped piping(they blew away, but I found them). Because of the storms, the umbrella was closed and sitting where it belongs in it’s GRANITE base. It is a very big and heavy umbrella. Did I mention that it was closed? The potted palms were in new places as well. It is almost impossible for me to move those potted palms.

And this is what a little wind did.
Well I guess, not such a little wind. The wind was strong enough to lift this chair, move the chair flip the rug and drop the chair on the folded edge and rearrange all of the furniture, and scoot the potted palms around.
Look:

Why did all of this stuff move and not the famous bucket? The Spa Terrace is funnel shaped so any wind becomes a vortex. The bucket sits on the main terrace in front of the pool. It is surprising that the lounge chairs near the bucket moved in the wind. The cushions on the other patio furniture were tossed about, and one throw pillow is missing, but the bucket did not move.
Those must be some heavy bougainvillea leaves!
Here is what the grouping should look like. Well the cushions are now safely inside until the wind stops:

Hurricane John is well south and west of us, but we have had rain and thunder storms for days. This morning’s wind is a wonderful refresher after all of that humid air.
So now I know that if there is a hurricane looming even my potted palms need to be secured. And Mr. Stubborn “you don’t have to move everything”, may not even argue with me when I insist on battening down.

Do You Know Where This Is in La Paz?

Do you know where this is in La Paz

Just as a goldie-oldie on the radio can bring your teen age summers at the beach rushing back with the smell of suntan oil, French fries and the salty sea, so can other sights, sounds, smells or objects.
After a couple of wonderful, but long rainy days in El Comitan, my Beloved and I were hankering for some time in town.
We went to town in the early evening and decided on a cold drink, and a light snack.
As we were waiting for our food I snapped the picture you see above.
It feels like an old port on a windy coast after a storm.
It brought back memories of Half Moon Bay or Princeton, California before they became chi-chi.
We would walk on the beach , the wind so strong we could lean back against it and be pushed along. When our faces ached from the cold, our glasses fogged over with salt sea spray, and our hair was full of sand, we would head back to Nancy’s Fish Trap in Princeton, or one of the cafes in Half Moon Bay.
Once we sat in the first location of Main Street Sushi, the weather was wild, windy, slashing rain, it was cold, it was summer. The windows rattled and the wind wailed. We enjoyed a wonderful sushi platter. The streetlights came on, the streets glistened in the rain, the lush flowers and trees were whipped by the wind and their blossoms stuck to the window.
We felt truly alone and isolated like castaways washed up on a foreign shore.

It was romantic.

Same picutre a few minutes later!

This picture took me back to that wonderful day in Half Moon Bay.
It was a balmy night, there had not yet been any reain in La Paz, but the clouds over El Mogote created a magnificent sunset.
This is a light on a post on the Tailhunter at street level.
Did you guess it?
Please leave a comment here on the blog ( upper left there is the word COMMENT) telling me whether you knew where the picture was taken, or if you had to read to the bottom.
Thanks,
Susan

Flying Over California in a Tiny Plane With My Son as the Pilot!

Approaching Morro Bay

Gorgeous scene, no? It would look good on a postcard don’t you think? As scenes go, it is one of thousands that can be seen in coastal California.
So what makes this scene and this picture so special?
Circling Morro Rock in a wondrous flying machine

I took it while sitting in the co-pilot’s seat of my son’s Beechcraft Bonanza! It is a beautiful little plane. And it symbolizes so much for him and our family.

A year ago in April, my son, Avram lost his precious youngest son, Thomas to cancer. It was a fierce battle, with hardly a victory for Thomas. And it was a battle we knew he could not win from the day he was diagnosed. We hoped the treatments-the horrific treatments- would buy Thomas time, and maybe new treatments would come along.
There just wasn’t enough time.

When Avram announced that he had decided to leave his flying club and buy his own plane, we were thrilled for him. He said that one thing he learned from Thomas is that life is short, and he was not going to put off his dreams any longer.

Pre-flight check. He keeps his iPad at hand for info.

Two years ago, we had flown with Avram in one of the small planes owned by his flying club. We were flying over the Santa Monica pier when we were ordered out to sea because President Obama was aboard Air Force One and it was entering our air space, we had to make way. We circled for a few minutes and were given the all-clear to return to our route During that same visit we joined the LAPD air support team on an actual shift in the police helicopter. We were warned if there were a big event like an O.J. chase, we would be in the helicopter until the event was over.
No crimes that day, just a false alarm at the local bank. But we did do a “beauty pass” of the HOLLYWOOD sign, which I blogged about two years ago.

HOLLYWOOD sign an American icon

So back to this past July. Avram took us from Camarillo airport to Morro Bay and we circled the famous Morro Bay rock.

He banked hard so I could get good photos. My Beloved in the back seat said he felt as if he was going to fall out. I kept the wing in the picture so you could see I really was flying through the air in a light plane.
Pre-flight fuel check,Avram and Ira, my Beloved

I loved every minute of it, even when on the way back the sun, and motion of the plane combined to put me to sleep. Good thing Avram was not also lulled!
After we secured the plane, we ate lunch outside at the Camarillo airport, a place where the rich, the famous and hardworking people with a love of flying hang out. We watched planes come and go, and felt very nostalgic. Small airports still have the romance of flying.
Last pass and then home

Birdsong in Baja


What shall I write in my blog today?
I am always talking about the gorgeous view from my terraces, and my office and my bathtub.
I never get tired of the colors and textures, and the ever-changing sea and sky and in winter the colors are pastel in morning, and silvery for part of the day. Very different from the fire-y summer mornings, and hot sun drenched azure sea.
This morning as on many mornings, the sound of gulls and other shore birds squawking woke me, long before dawn. The birds, sea and shore dwellers fly by all night and honk, and squawk. I love the sound.
One particular great blue heron flies right across our terrace and honks, loudly! He has no care that people may be sleeping inside. He loves the updrafts that the shallow X shape or our house create. And I assume that the honk is one of sheer pleasure. Although it does not sound much different from his imperious honk when he is chasing other birds from his feeding grounds…or waters, I should say.

There are some birds whose calls I have dubbed “Jurassic Park” sounds. They sound as if they are huge and calling from deep in a distant jungle. You know the sounds that are background for jungle movies? That’s what some of these birds sound like…and I am charmed.

There are over 60 identified species of birds living in our neighborhood. We are surrounded by a biological preserve. We have a pair of Great Horned Owls. They are huge, and their haunting “hoo-hoo” can be heard throughout the area.

This spring we heard a lovely birdsong that sounded somewhat like a burbling creek. We looked around to see where this sweet warbler was. To our amazement, a plain, scruffy black, bird was singing that perfect song. On the sill outside our eight-foot kitchen window were two of these plain birds.
The male, the one with the voice was strutting and preening for the not-so-interested female.
She would ignore him, and walk to the end of the sill. He would hop in front of her and puff up his chest and sing. She was not interested. She would turn and march to the opposite end. He would fly off and land in front of her and sing his heartbreaking song. This went on for days in front of this window. Showtime was just around our breakfast time, we would hear the first chirps, and drop what we were doing and head to the kitchen window.
Call us voyeurs. But we were also rooting for the little guy, hoping his beloved would accept his attentions. And finally, after many repetitions of the song, the puffing and preening, his lady love succumbed.

More than once I would hear the screeching of what sounded like a bird in distress. I would run out to the terrace with my binoculars, and there would be a baby osprey perched on a dead palm. Some baby, its talons were longer than my fingers, and it’s wingspan over six feet. I asked an ornithologist friend about this, and he said the bird had been pushed from the nest. It was able to fly and deemed ready to go out on its own by its exhausted , yet doting parents. It was screeching for mama or papa to come feed it. Mama and papa were clearly done with child–rearing, but baby was not happy. After an interminable time of pathetic screeching, the parents would fly by and coax the baby down and show it one more time how to hunt. The baby would learn to feed itself or die.
I have never seen a dead osprey on our beach or in the mangrove, so I believe that baby went off to feed, and soar, and mate and train babies of its own.

Soon I will write about “Eddie the Eagle’, that turned out to be a very sick baby osprey that turned up in our patio once many years ago.

Sexy, Exotic, Hawaiian Flower, Showing Off in La Paz Baja California Sur


Do you recognize this gorgeous, exotic bloom?
It is an anthurium, and it actually is native to Central and South America. Wikipedia says nothing about how it got to Hawaii, but that is how I think of it.
And Cecilia, a flight attendant friend of mine says cut anthurium are popular take home gifts for tourists leaving Hawaii. She has seen them specially packaged in small bunches for a lot of money and they are carried right on the plane.
Well, back to my anthurium.
My dear friend Maria gave me the plant for Christmas this past December 2011. It had much smaller leaves and was bursting with many blooms and some tightly rolled buds. I thanked her profusely, and wondered if it would survive my three-week Christmas vacation, with the maid caring for it.
To my surprise, it survived, and flourished. It had pride of place on our kitchen island where it was kissed by morning sun. But it grew so large and full, my beloved asked if I would consider moving it.
I was sure that moving it would mean certain death. But here is another picture showing how shiny and healthy the leaves are
And this is not the first time it has produced buds, here are two making their way out to the sun. It has been in constant bloom since December. It is still in the plastic pot. I am afraid to re-pot it and kill it. It s so healthy and shiny, and happily blooming, that I think I shall keep it right where it is!
One of the nicknames for the anthurium is the “boy plant”. Well it does have a big, yellow, penis, Uh, excuse me, it has a big erect, knobby spadix.

And when the flower starts to die, the red bract turns muddy green and the big, erect, spadix develops yellow bumps and lumps, I call it gonorrhea of the plant world.
I am sure my grandson Patrick aged 11, will just love seeing photos of this guy:

Before this bract withers and dies it will be covered with the yeloow bumps, which get uglier and uglier. The firts time I saw it I thought the plant was diseased! I am going to try to propagate the plant by laying the withered bract with it’s blistered spadix on a nice bed of potting soil. Stay tuned!