Saturday, January 30, 2010

Mexican Shake Down!

Saturday January 30, 2009
Okay, so when you break the law, as in a small traffic violation, you should pay the price, right? This morning, we were leaving Ajijic, heading for Tonala (to pick up that something special I mentioned in a previous post), and we were at an traffic light (green) waiting to turn left, and then just as we turned (Jerry is driving but Phil and I encouraged him to "just go!") we saw ahead a cop motioning for us to pull over. At this particular light, we were not sure you could turn left without a green arrow, as as it turns out we can't! The cop said there was a sign (we will have to go back and make sure we can see it). Anyway, he proceeds to ask for driver's license and registration, tells us he is going to write a ticket for 550 pesos. Fine. He heads over to his truck, pulls out a clip board and ticket book, comes back to the car and asks us if we want him to write a ticket now which we will have to pay in Chapala (a nearby town). Some back and forth in Spanglish about what is the best way to write the ticket, and whether we want him to WRITE the ticket. By this point we are starting to catch on that there may be another option! It was an aha! moment. So after a little more back and forth, we came to the conclusion that if we paid now it would only cost us... "how much do you want to pay?" Jerry "is 200 okay?" Cop "Si!" The 200 quickly disappeared and we were on our way! Lesson learned.... first, don't mess up with traffic signs when cops are watching, second, especially if you are a gringo, third, if situation arises again offer smaller amount first! :-D LOL

This is a very organized power pole situation. Up coming, I will show you some not so organized situations! 

Friday, January 29, 2010

A trip to Tequila

Friday January 29, 2009
The beautiful blue agave plants line the hillsides.

Less than a two hour drive from Ajijic, through Guadalajara, is the town of Tequila, where Tequila (the drink) was originally made. Although it is not the only town in this area that has Tequila distilleries, it is the biggest. We parked our car close to the plaza down town and went in to the first Tequila distillery we came to, Jose Cuervo, to go on a tour. The whole process is very interesting, and we were allowed to sample raw agave, pictured above, roasted agave and of course, Tequila in different stages of production. These "pina's" typically weigh 60-80 pounds, below they are carrying them into the roasting oven.

In some parts of the tour, we were not allowed to take photos because it might be too dangerous.... with the amount of alcohol in the air, they didn't want anything that might spark to be used. Most (75%) of the tequila produced in Mexico is exported. Their biggest customer is the US but surprisingly the second biggest is Greece (because of tourism).
At the end of the tour, we were served a yummy margarita on a nice out door patio. We got a picture of Phil out in the field, cutting agave.... working hard after a few shots of tequila!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Molcajete Fun

Thursday January 28, 2009
I have been having way too much fun cooking with my new molcajete! (Thank you Mary Beth!) I went through all the steps to get it ready, which took me several days. First step is to grind a small amount of rice to a fine powder, until the rice was no longer turns grey from the rock. After that, I seasoned it using garlic, fresh cilantro, cumin seed, and rock salt. I left this ground up mixture in the molcajete over night and then just rinsed with water the next morning. First thing we made was a nice fresh salsa, pictured below. Then Phil got in on the act and made a very delicious guacamole! The more we use the molcajete, the better things made in it will taste.

Kathy's Molcajete Salsa
1 or 2 cloves of garlic
1 teaspoon cumin seed
Juice of one small lime
1 teaspoon rock salt
1 serrano or jalapeƱo chilie
1 small white onion
2 roma tomatoes
cilantro, chopped
Crush garlic in molcajete or mortar with pestal. Add cumin seed, crush. Add lime juice and rock salt, crush again. Add whole chilie (including seeds), crush well. You should now have a nice uniform liquid. Add chopped onion and tomatoes. Gently crush, not much. Add chopped cilantro and ENJOY!

Monday, January 25, 2010

What will we do today?

Monday January 25, 2009
Well, we were up early again this morning, before the sun! We don't have any clocks in the house, but we do check Jerry's wrist watch from time to time. We can almost tell exactly what time it is by the different noises we hear outside. Right around 6:45 am the din of traffic starts to pick up and goes until about 7:15. The birds start making noise about 7:15 and then at 7:30 or so, just before the sun comes up, we hear the little morning doves start to coo. Traffic picks up again just before 8, but by that time we are on our second cup of coffee, the sun is shinning brightly in our breakfast room, and we are starting to plan our day.

Yesterday we drove to Jocotepec, a town 20 minutes west of Ajijic, and walked along their new walkway by the lake shore. I took this picture of the white cranes having a little tiff over a fish. Below is a little water park, but there weren't any kids playing in the water that day.

We are heading off to the airport in Guadalajara this evening to pick up Phil. It looks like the weather is going to be absolutely fantastic for his whole week here. But first stop will be a store to get him a pair of shorts, apparently he doesn't own one!
We are starting our countdown until we have to leave Ajijic! Only another two weeks in paradise, damn!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Lettuce go crazy!

Thursday January 21, 2009
I think the weather has finally settled into the warm zone. The newspapers have stopped talking about where you can go to see some snow, and the local Mexican people are not wearing toques, gloves, scarves and down jackets! I am not complaining, but we did feel a little ripped when we had all the cold weather. Now on to better things.

A few days ago we bought a head of lettuce at the local supermarket. Now this is no ordinary head of lettuce...... I just had to put a picture on the blog!

I didn't weigh it, but I think it probably weighed about 5 pounds easily. We have enjoyed many lunches and dinners of green salad, and still have more than half left. And how about this single rosemary plant we spotted!

Mom left us yesterday morning, so we are all alone again until Monday when Phil arrives. I wish the weather had been a bit nicer while she was here, but at least it was warmer than Kelowna and sunnier too. We are planning two day trips for when Phil gets here.... off to Tequila! and then back to Tonala to the market again. We have to pick up something special we are having made. And no, Roma it is not for you!
I finished reading Godforsaken Sea and have started on The Sparrow's Fall by Fred Bodsworth, Jerry is reading How to Overthrow The Government by Arianna Huffington, both really good books. We are getting lots of reading in, mostly books we find at the local thrift shop. It is nice to have time just to read, and not have to worry about having to do something else. Am I starting to sound retired? Yikks!!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Lazy Sunday!

Sunday January 17, 2009

We went to the plaza in Ajijic this morning to see their second annual Art Show and Sale and first annual flea market. It has a long way to go before it matches any of the big markets I have been to, but it was fun to see the art and junk people are selling. After lunch, we left mom at home to study her Spanish, and Jerry and I went out to see some open houses. I just love the gardens people have here, they have the most beautiful unusual plants such as the Green Stripe Bamboo below. This plant was about 15 feet high and so beautiful! It would be so fun to be able to grow this at home!

We went to four open houses and then drove around a little west of Ajijic, up on the hillside overlooking the lake. I took another panoramic picture, just couldn't resist the view! This is the view of an extinct volcano across the lake from a lot we stopped to walk around on.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Tonala Market (but not on market day!)

Saturday January 16, 2009
Tonala is a city just on the outskirts of Guadalajara, population about 500,000. It has a wonderful market on Thursday and Sunday. The other days of the week is a scaled back version of the frenzy that happens on Thursday and Sunday. So we decided to go on an "off-market" day, and it was much better than the last time we went which was on a market day. People come from all over Mexico to buy things for their houses.... from art and crafts to zebra paintings and everything in between. Furniture, blown glass, pottery, dried flowers, doodads, nicknacks, widgets, doohickeys, thingamabobs, and whatchamacallits.... you get the general idea!

We enjoyed strolling around the market without too many other people to bump into. And on top of that, the weather was great! For the past couple days, we have had wind and colder temperatures, very little sun. But today it warmed up to 22 Celsius without a cloud in the sky. 

Our lunch at a little restaurant in Tonala Market was an avocado torta (sandwich) each for Jerry and I and for Mom, Huevos Rancheros, fresh squeezed orange juice and fresh limeade... totlal 118 pesos ($9.56 cdn).
Mom only has three more full days here, we will be taking her to the airport early Wednesday morning. Hopefully the remainder of her holiday will be warm and sunny!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Hummer puzzle.

Wednesday January 14, 2009
* * * *
I have looked high and low, but have not had any luck identifying this hummer. It is quite large, the beak is red with a black tip, it has a white underside and not much colour on the back and head, almost a dark grey. I have tossed around the idea that it might be the mate to the previous pictured hummer, but am not convinced because the tail is different.

We are off to go to the dentist. All three of us have appointments for a cleaning. The sun is shinning today, only a few puffy white clouds around. We are REALLY enjoying the sunshine, it is suppose to get up to about 20 today. Just perfect!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

We need help with bird identification.

Wednesday January 13, 2009
We have several types of humming birds around our yard and it has been very difficult to identify them because I don't have a bird book with me. The one pictured below I think is called the Broad-billed hummingbird. And then the next picture I am not sure, but it is some type of warbler. If anyone has a bird book they can look these two up for me, that would be great! Too bad I forgot to bring my book. These two birds are very amusing to watch as they fight for control of the feeder. The little hummer will also stand up to bigger birds, many the size of a robin.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

I love these decorations.... they look so beautiful strung across the streets, orderly yet chaotic! And then mix in a bunch of power lines and you have a typical Mexican street at festival time!

Day trip to Mazamitla

Sunday January 10, 2009
We left early this morning (about 9:30) for our day trip to Mazamitla. It was cool this morning but promised to be a beautiful day to take a trip into the mountains (elevation about 7500 feet). But by the time we arrived in Mazamitla (about a two hour drive), the temperature had cooled to a nippy 13 degrees! It was a busy day, most roads were jammed with visitors and parking was at a premium. We noticed they were having a quad competition which no doubt had attracted many young men with their fathers. We saw lots of motorcycles around town as well, but mostly it was just people wanting to get a breath of beautiful mountain air! Most people (not us!) were dressed for the weather with down jackets, warm shoes or boots, gloves, toques, scarves or ear-muffs.
We had our lunch at a nice restaurant in the centre of town.... quesadillas, above, with hot vegetable soup and coffee, very yummy and just what we needed to warm up.

Mazamitla is famous for their cheese and canned fruit and juices. We bought a kilo of cheese from a street vendor, tomorrows dinner. On the way back to Ajijic, we stopped to take a few photos of the vista....
Just out of the centre of town, this is a picture of the valley below.
Half way down the mountain, another view, Lake Chapala on the right.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Ajijic Village again, visiting galleries.

Friday January 8, 2009
Oh, man, I can't believe the weather here! And nobody else can either! It has been cloudy for two days now and the temperature only gets up to about 18 or 19! This really sucks big time. Hopefully we get some nice weather soon, or I am going to have to start taking my vitamin D again!
Alright, enough complaining (typical Canadian), at least it is not -10 and possible snow like my aunt is getting in Florida. Mom and I went back to the village again today for another look around. We went to some shops and galleries we had not been to yesterday. We found a small shop that sells Alebrijes (al e bri heys), which are beautifully painted carved (from copal wood) fanciful animals from small towns in the state of  Oaxaca. It is hard to appreciate the work that goes into these animals, but to give you an idea, the larger pieces can take up to a month to carve. Below is a lion and then close up detail on another sculpture.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Neighborhood walks and village visits.

Thursday January 7, 2009
Yesterday afternoon, mom and I walked around our neighborhood and had a look at all the beautiful gardens. I took some pictures of the more unusual plants, many plants growing in the yards here are our "house plants", but they grow to be huge!

Shrimp plant.

Hens and chicks.

Mother of thousands.

Red sedum

I took Mom to the village center this morning, but by the time we got back home we had a flat tire! After taking the tire off, Jerry saw the problem. We had picked a nail at some point. So we got the spare put on and headed up to the tire shop where they actually found two nails! Got that fixed and then decided we might as well change the oil too.
Two patches for flat tire, tire rotation, oil change:  at 98,500 km 390 pesos ($31.64 cdn)
So we are all set to go again! Back to the village tomorrow... we will get some pictures.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Dinner plans for Saturday

The Vermilion Flycatcher male, very hard to get a picture of, they are so timid!

Tuesday January 5, 2009
Tomorrow GG arrives (before the break of dawn at 5:00 am!!) and we are already filling up our calendar with activities and dinner dates, at home and away. Today, we had Rachel here to do some cleaning for us and she will be coming back on Saturday to cook a Mexican dinner for us! Then Tuesday we have been invited for dinner at Jane and Paul's house, a couple we met while staying at the bed and breakfast before we rented this house. They are from DC but have also spent some time in Japan, which I think will be very interesting for GG to talk to them about.
In addition to eating here and there, we will be exploring the town of Ajijic, going in little shops and galleries. We are also going to be taking a day trip to Matzamitla, about a two hour drive from here on the other side of the lake and up in the mountains. It has a bit of a Swiss feel to it, a very pretty picturesque town. We will probably do a round the lake tour on the same day, which would make it an all day trip.
We will probably go on an open house tour as well, it is always fun to have a look at different Mexican style houses, some old and some new.
We will be taking lots of pictures, and of course you will be able to see them right here! Below is what I am going to make for dessert for our Saturday Night Mexican Dinner.

Chocolate Avocado Pie
2 large soft avocados
2 cups dark chocolate or carob chips
1/8 cup skim milk, possibly more needed
1 T vanilla extract
liquid sweetener, add as much as you want depending on taste
pre-made reduced fat pie crust
1 T orange juice

Take a pre made crust and lay washed and dried raspberries along bottom of crust.

In a double broiler melt chocolate chips with milk and vanilla. Add sweetener to taste. Mix well, and take off from heat after fully melted so that it does not burn.

In a separate bowl mash up the avocado, or pulse in a food processor. Add in orange juice, Get all lumps out.

After chocolate cools a bit mix it in with mashed avocado. This mixture should be thick and creamy. Test the sweetness level.

Pour over raspberries and place in fridge to set.

Monday, January 4, 2010

We're having a splendid time reading books.

Monday January 4, 2009
This is a story with a bit of a twist....
A few days ago, I decided to go for a walk and found a little thrift shop (they are supporting children with disabilities). If you know me, you also know that I would have had to go in and would have found something to buy. And yes, I did buy... a pair of corduroy pants and a linen skirt. But, then as I was getting ready to pay, a book on the shelf caught my eye.... A World of My Own by Robin Knox-Johnston. It has a picture of a sailboat on the cover. I bought it, not bothering to read what it was about, and thinking that Jerry would probably like to read it when he finished the book he had just started.

When I got back home I showed the book to Jerry. Now there is something else you should know at this point, and that is that Jerry is reading a book that he picked up in Portland at the used book store. It is called Godforsaken Sea by Derek Lundy. It is also a sailboat book. So it turns out, that the two books are really about the same thing, just 40 years apart! Robin Knox-Johnston successfully sailed his little 32 foot wooden boat single-handed around the world in 1967-68, being the first to do it solo. A World of My Own is his account of his trip taking him almost a year to complete. Godforsaken Sea is about the Vendee Globe race of 1996 disaster, also a round the world race, but taking only about 100 days or so.

So, since Jerry was reading Godforsaken Sea, I decided I would start on A World of My Own. Now this is where the really interesting part comes in..... as we are both reading through our books, the boats are passing through the same parts of the ocean, and it is really quite neat to compare the race 40 years apart! So, we have just about spent the whole day today reading, and comparing notes. We are convinced we do not want to do this! Good books though.

Okay, check this out. What do you think this is? Hint: I found them in our yard.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

It rains here from time to time.

Sunday January 3, 2010
It is hard to believe we have made it to 2010! In BC and Vancouver in particular, we have been talking about 2010 for about 6 years now. So it seems strange that it has finally arrived. I am rambling I know, but I just realized that after I wrote it out... 2 0 1 0 !!

Okay, now so what I was going to write about today was the rain we had yesterday. It practically rained ALL day long, reminded me so much of Vancouver! And everyone around here was complaining about the cold and rain yesterday! Even the birds were particularly quiet, I could just imagine them, huddled together deep inside a bougainvillea plant, hoping the rain would stop. Sounds so familiar, seems like I am right at home. But I don't mind the rain, and the cold (18 degrees celsius) won't bother me either. I took the opportunity to go out for a walk around our little neighborhood and take some pictures in the rain.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Some of the birds in our yard.

We have a great yard for watching the birds. I put up a humming bird feeder the other day and have had not only hummers at it but several other birds are checking it out. The birds are pretty shy, and I have to be quick to get their pictures, so far I haven't managed to get a really good one. I will keep posting as I get them.

Golden - fronted Woodpecker

Common Yellowthroat