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Friday, June 28, 2013

Polanco's Modern Architecture

I'm fascinated with the older homes and buildings in the Polanco neighborhood and I've posted many such photos, but the last time we were there I started focusing on the newer architecture.  It was a Sunday afternoon and after eating we walked through the neighborhoods enjoying the quiet (something that is out of the ordinary for Mexico City) and empty streets.  I started looking up at the building and realized that many of the new structures are actually quite beautiful.  I still prefer the older buildings, but I can live with these:

I had to take this one that is below though.  I will always love color over steel and white.  For me, the house below has so much more character and charm. I can imagine the people who have lived in such houses over the years and I can invent stories for them in my head.  For some reason that is harder for me to do with the newer buildings.  I realize it is all a matter of taste though and I understand why people love modern architecture as much as I love the older styles.

As to our architectural changes here in our house, we are all covered with cement dust.  It's in my eyes, nose and apparently my lungs since I've been coughing for two days now.  We keep telling ourselves it is only temporary.  I actually tried to take a picture of all the dust floating through the air but the photo didn't do the scene justice.

For my friends in Chicago - enjoy the Blackhawks Victory Parade!!  I was downtown for the last one and it was so much fun!  I want to be there for next year's parade so there had better be a repeat.


Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Another Day, Another Wall and More

For a quick update on the construction front, we have a mess and it will only get much worse.  You can see the new brick wall with an opening for a window.  On the other side of that wall is the old kitchen which soon will be torn down and converted into a patio/garage for a second car.

All of my kitchen stuff is now strewn all over the dining room and living room.  I didn't take pictures of that because it drives me crazy and I don't want it recorded for posterity.  It's coming along though and it's not like we haven't lived through these messes before.  This is about the seventh time we have gone through major house construction and reconstruction between Mexico City and Chicago.  At a certain point tempers will flare and furniture may fly. We haven't reached that point yet but I have noticed that we are both snapping at the other just about every time we occupy the same room.  This better be worth it.

I bake a lot so I decided to make some banana bread on Saturday.  One loaf for us and the other to take to my mother-in-law's for dinner.  I quickly found out that the thermostat on my oven doesn't work.  Within 10 minutes the house was filled with smoke and the smell of carbon.  Who knows what temp the oven was at by then, but Arturo said that a little bit of burnt crust wouldn't bother him at all.  So I turned the oven way way down, I opened the door every few minutes to let even more heat out, and I groused about how nothing ever seems to work right.  My daughters can tell you that I take on that world view every so often.

So, the top picture is self explanatory.  The bottom is what was left over after I cut off the burnt part.  Our house smelled of burnt bread for two entire days.  Arturo claims that it smelled good.  That makes me worry.

And to end off today's post, I read this interesting article that Madeleine Benzing posted on Facebook that discusses why French kids aren't diagnosed with ADHD to the extent that U.S. kids are.  The ADHD rate for U.S. children has reached the astounding level of 9%, while the French rate is .5%, according to the article.  What struck me, or hit home, is the difference in attitudes and theories of child rearing between the French and the American styles.  If you have the time or interest to read it, I'd love to know which child rearing philosophy you subscribe to.

Happy Wednesday!

Monday, June 24, 2013


For the life of me I can't get the accent marks to work on my computer - there should be an accent mark over the "a" in Tepotzotlan.  Anyway, yesterday we went to the town or small city of Tepotzotlan which is about 45 minutes from Mexico City.  Forty five minutes providing there is not a downpour on your way home which floods the highway and stops traffic.  Which happened to us on the way home, but that's the way it goes during rainy season in Mexico City.  I keep digressing.

Tepotzotlan is one of Mexico's "Pueblos Magicos" or Magic Towns.  Tepotzotlan was an important center during the Aztecs' reign and then it became a major educational center during the colonial period when the Jesuits established the College of San Francisco Javier.  This was an important religious, educational and cultural center from 1580-1914.  After the Jesuits were expelled from Mexico, the Catholic Church took it over, and then in 1964 the Mexican government took the convent/monastery, educational center and the church, restored them and turned all of it into a museum.  This museum named Museo del Virreinato (Museum of the Colonial Period), occupies the former monastery, educational center and church, and houses one of the largest collections of liturgical and religious art, as well as many other artifacts, from the colonial period.
These paintings line the hallways and are all religious themes.

One of the patios
I took this picture in one of the smaller chapels.

I cheated - I didn't take this picture because the church was closed.  Impressive.

It takes a minimum of 90 minutes, going at a brisk pace and not dawdling, to go through the convent, its gardens, patios and to take in all the artwork.  You could easily spend hours there.  I lost Arturo after 10 minutes as I'm a dawdler, but so is my brother-in-law Alfonso, so we went at our own pace.  Much later we found Arturo and his mom, somewhat bored, waiting for us.  Arturo made the major mistake of asking us if we saw the library (which we had somehow missed), so off Alfonso and I went for another 45 minute tour of the library and the third floor which we had previously skipped.  The third floor has the history of the nuns and their portraits.  I didn't know that a nun could get her "crown" only if she or her family could raise enough money to pay for it.  During the colonial period that cost was about $3000 so it was mostly the nuns from the wealthy families who were crowned.  The picture at the bottom shows one of the lucky ones.
The library

Part of the pharmacy

After Alfonso and I were dragged from the museum, we strolled through all the outdoor vendors' stands where I mostly bought and ate candy.  We had lunch/dinner at a buffet, and as we were getting ready to leave we witnessed a run away bull - there are ranches surrounding the town - run free in the parking lot before being wrestled to the ground by some cowboys who appeared out of nowhere on horseback.  Unfortunately a couple of people walking in the parking lot were injured.  Hopefully not badly.  Then we drove home until we had to stop driving because of the flooded highway.  All in all, not counting the bull incident, it was a good day.
This isn't the bull that escaped but it is the largest bulls I've seen.

My mother-in-law and Alfonso
Citlali and Poukie had to stay home so no pictures of them.

Friday, June 21, 2013

A Mish Mash on a Rainy Day

It's been raining for the last 36 hours give or take a few minutes.  I am not a rain person.  I can only survive when it is sunny outside.  It doesn't have to be warm but it has to be sunny.  Mexico needs the rain so I'm grateful for it, but I really think it should only rain at night when I'm in bed either sleeping or reading a good book.  I took this photo at 10:30 a.m. and it could be mistaken for a nighttime photo.  Eventually the sun will return so until then I will just drink lots of coffee to stay awake and I'll think good thoughts about how green everything will become.  

On the house reconstruction front, they haven't started with the inside yet but are working on the patio/garage as it is going to be enlarged.  So while that is a muddy, wet concrete mess, the house is still workable.   Next week we dismantle the kitchen and then it gets torn down.  That should be interesting.  The good thing about that is that I won't be able to cook.  I don't have anything against cooking but I'll always willing to take a break from it when I can.  As long as I have a place to plug in the coffeepot I'm good to go.

Notice that blue covered thing in the picture below in what is currently part of my mostly cleared out kitchen/eating area? (We don't usually eat at a plastic picnic table - we put away the good furniture).  That is Arturo's 30 year old cross country motorcycle.  Obviously we have to protect what is most important to us, right?  Really?  A motorcycle in my kitchen?
Citlali has the right idea.


Thursday, June 20, 2013

Colonia Maza

We are always on the lookout  to discover places in Mexico City that are new for us.  I have to be frank about how we came to find Colonia Maza even if it is a bit tacky.  Arturo and I love plants and flowers and we want to fill the house with both.  However, we aren't here all year and when we leave for up to six months, they will all die.  So, we have been looking for good quality artificial plants and flowers.  You should see some of the looks we have gotten from vendors when we go to the outdoor and indoor flower and plants markets and ask them if they have fake ones.  One kind vendor must have taken pity on us and told us about Colonia Maza.  Colonia Maza has streets and streets of shops selling high quality artificial flowers and plants that make you look twice and I actually had to touch them to see if they are real or not.  It is a crafters' paradise too with stores that offer scrapbooking supplies, wood and ceramics to paint, do it yourself party decorations as well as party decor for every type of occasion, ribbons, the list goes on.  And let me tell you it was a constant battle to keep Poukie from peeing on everything - he thought they were real too.

We bought a bunch of flowers and made two beautiful arrangements.  However, the house construction is causing so much concrete dust everywhere that Arturo put them away before I could take the pictures.  Actually, I could have taken the pictures because they were on display for a couple of days but I didn't know they were going to disappear on me.  Another day I will post them.  And we will return to Maza for plants next time.

On the good news front, the remaining two puppies, siblings of puppy Caine, checked out okay at the vet's yesterday!  They show no signs of the heart disease that the other puppies died from.  It was time for some good news.  In the words of their caretakers:

Absolutely speechless! Our 2 little miracles, (say that again) MIRACLES have escaped the heart disease that took the lives of Mama, Jasmine, Snapdragon and Caine. The Doctor said their hearts are beating strong and they should live healthy long lives. We needed this so badly. The heartache was beginning to be too much too bare. Even though it's Wednesday, I think a happy dance and a celebration is just what the Dr ordered! We are truly blessed. Thank you for sending prayers and love! 

That made my day yesterday.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Aprons in Memory of Puppy Caine, and House Construction

From June 17th through June 24th I'm donating all the profits from anything I sell from my Etsy store Cherry Pie Aprons to It's a Pittie Rescue the wonderful organization that cared for puppy Caine during his all too short life, and which tried to save his mother Mama Petunia.  They now continue to care for Caine's two surviving siblings.  I'm also offering a 10% discount on all purchases with the coupon code "Sale3yrs" that you enter at the checkout.  I want to thank my daughter Laura Ford for wrapping and sending the aprons, spa clothes, etc. that have already sold!  So if you need an apron, or would like to give one as a gift, now is your chance to get two things for one:  something for yourself and something for a great organization.      

In other news from the Mexico City home front, Arturo decided to go ahead with his plans to do a partial rebuild of our house.  When we built it over 30 years ago, we did it little by little and now the kitchen and bathroom downstairs are outdated and just not what we want.  So the kitchen is being knocked down to make room for another car in the carport/patio/garage (we don't have two cars but maybe someday we will sell the house), the kitchen will be moved over one room, and I'm not really sure what all he is doing with the bathroom.  All I know is that there is an awful lot of pounding since houses here are made of concrete, a lot of concrete dust flying around and the dogs are not happy.    These are the pre tearing down my kitchen pictures:

        And here is supervisor Poukie.  Since he does not have a hard hat, he is now inside hiding under the bedspread.

 Funny thing is that for years I've wanted to redo the kitchen since it is quite primitive.  Now that it is actually happening, I'm nostalgic for the days back when we were building it.  I was 21 years old and pregnant with our first daughter, Diana.  Even though we didn't have much money, we had fun building our first house which consisted of the kitchen, a bathroom and one room where we lived.  That is the room you can see in the second picture above.  To say it was small is an understatement but we did okay there for several years and with two babies as Laura was born 14 months after Diana.  Our dog Linda fit in there with us too.  Later on we added to the house extending the first floor, adding a second floor and doing a lot of landscaping.  Thirty one years later it is still a house in progress.  Who knows what Arturo will think of next?  Always an adventure.                                                                                                                                                    

Monday, June 17, 2013

Farewell puppy Caine, your light lives on

I don't want this to be a depressing blog post so I'm trying to find the so called "silver lining" in this story of Mama Petunia and her puppies.  The eleven week old puppy Caine died Saturday afternoon of an enlarged heart.  Instead of a lingering death, Caine was happily playing outside in the grass when his heart just stopped.
This story has had several heartbreaking turns but it has also captured the hearts and attention of people all over the world, and the hope is that more will join the fight to help rescue and save this breed.  Pit bulls have such a bad reputation, and granted, there have been horrible cases of humans who were badly injured or even killed by pit bulls.  But in reality, they are probably the most affectionate, loyal and forgiving among all the breeds of dogs.  The fault is squarely at the door of the humans who cruelly use them for what they call "entertainment" and of course for money. The dog isn't the problem, but people are.  However, for every cruel person who is guilty of abusing these creatures, there are so many others who want to help them.

And why are so many dedicated to helping dogs?  It's because these animals are an anchor in what can be a gray, dark and troubled world and they demonstrate what we wish all mankind could practice:  unconditional love and forgiveness, a loyalty that knows no bounds, and an innate sense of wanting to comfort us when we are sad, lonely or sick.  Just as importantly, they have enormous capacity to play and just enjoy the moment they are living.  They feel and live joy in a way that is difficult for us to understand at times.  We see that same joy in young children but it seems to disappear as we get older.  But dogs bring that joy back to us not matter what our age may be.
So, instead of being sad, we should use the light that puppy Caine brought into the lives of so many who didn't even know him, and use that light to do something good for someone or some animal.  And just in case any of you want to donate to Pittie Rescue in the Chicagoland area, they are in need of your time, medical supplies, daily supplies, the list is long.  If you don't have money to spare, they would love your time.  You can also make purchases for them directly from Amazon.  Disclaimer:  Pittie Rescue does not even know about this blog so they are not the ones responsible for this request.  It is entirely my own.

We have to use the bad things that happen in life to do good.  It is the only way.


Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Sunshine, Shawls and a Hero

Our plumbing is still a huge mess, there are still tons of problems everywhere, but the sun came out today in Mexico City and pessimistic thoughts don't help anyone.  Instead, I'm happy to say that I finished a project!  For those of you who don't know me, you may shake your head and say "so what."  And that is a legitimate thought to have.  But as my family and close friends know, I have a short attention span, starting many things then taking forever to finish any of them, because by the time I'm half way through a project, something better comes along.  Unfortunately, my house contains many orphaned projects that will never again see the light of day.

But not this raspberry shawl/throw!   It took a year of  on and off knitting but it's done.  For those of you who knit and want to do a fast project (I know, a year isn't fast but
 most people have more "stick to it" will power than I have), I recommend this.  It was knit with a silky cotton yarn and is a super easy pattern:
Cast on 60
Row 1: knit, pearl, knit, pearl, to the end of the row
Row 2: knit
Repeat rows 1 and 2 until desired length - this one is about 60"

It took a little over two skeins of yarn (I can't find the label but any silky cotton will do).

 I'm really bad at taking pictures of myself and Arturo wasn't around so this is as good as it gets.

In other news, I'm working on a couple of book reviews that I want to post here - if you have any suggestions please let me know.  Then last night I was asked if I would like to review a new book on knitting.  Even though I advised them that I'm not an expert, they said that was fine as the book is for all levels.  So I'll be doing that review soon too.

To top off today's post, and most importantly, here is a FB link about a Borlaug family member of whom we are extremely proud:  Norman Borlaug.  Most people don't know who he is, but he is credited with saving millions of lives through his work, and in 1970 he won the Nobel Peace Prize.  Much of his work in developing disease resistent, high yield wheat varieties was done just miles away from Mexico City in Toluca, Estado de Mexico.  There are many websites about his life and work, including this one.  Thanks to my cousin David Borlaug for starting the ball rolling on the topic of Norman Borlaug today.   Inspiration is all around us!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Plumbing Disaster

Let's talk for a minute about one of the downsides of living abroad.  It's when the freaking plumbing in your house in Chicago decides to have a complete breakdown and you are thousands of miles away in Mexico City.  It started out as a bothersome, but seemingly minor problem, with the kitchen sink.  Then with the shower.  And finally, it all pretty much exploded.   Last night the Roto Rooter guy tried to rod out the main drain but no luck.  Today they are coming out with a camera to see if they can find out what the problem is.  Worst case scenario is that they will have to break up the street in front of the house and do a major repair job.  I don't want to discuss the cost estimate for that kind of work.

So at 3 a.m. I lay awake worrying about all of this - did you know that 3 a.m. is the most dreadful hour of the 24 hour day?  I worried the about the cost, the inconvenience, and finally about my beautiful Crimson King maple trees that we planted 17 years ago and which might have to be sacrificed if they have to tear everything up.  Although the problems remain, I have a somewhat better grip on myself this morning.  After all, it's just plumbing and money mostly.  Everyone is okay and so many people have problems that make this look like child's play.  Still, I wish were there to help out with the mess.  Hmm, maybe not.  Thanks to Laura and Pat for the clean ups and for being there when the plumbers are trying to work!

Fortunately I don't have pictures of the mess in Chicago to show you, but I am in love with this type of window.  I took this on Sunday in the historic center.  I like how they use galvanized tin buckets as planters.

  And finally, for those of you who are following puppy Caine, I'm leaving you with the Facebook page that follows the lives of Caine and his two remaining siblings.  The page is dedicated to Mama Petunia, the pup's mother who died in April.  They post regular updates, photos and fun videos on a daily basis.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Museo de Arte Popular

The Museo de Arte Popular, located in the Historical Center of Mexico City, has a fun exhibition right now that we, Arturo, his mom, brother Alfonos, sister Marcela and brother-in-law Antonio visited yesterday.  Montserrat Pecanins, a woman who was born in Spain but has lived much of her life in Mexico City, is a former art gallery owner, plus many other things, and who creates large shadow boxes of dancers, musicians,  and performers.  The exhibition showcases these wonderfully eccentric, intricate and elaborate boxes that she creates with moving figures.  These are a couple of my favorites:
 This one was one of my favorites because she created a bookstore and made lots of tiny books that you can't see here.

She has drawers full of sequins, lace, brocades, pearls, jewelry, fabrics, buttons and whatever other embellishments catch her eye.  As you can see, she loves bright, bold colors.

Arturo and his mom met her a couple of years ago since she was also a gallery owner and Arturo seems to know tons of people in the arts.  She owned her first gallery, located in Barcelona, together with her younger twin sisters.  All three spent most of their time in Mexico City where they were very well known in the artistic community.


This one is of the famous composer, Agustin Lara.

Our next stop was to eat at a neighborhood restaurant.  You know the kind of simple, but great food kind of place that isn't in the tourist books but where all the locals go?  That's this one.  It is right in front of one of Latin America's oldest radio station, XEW.  Sorry but I don't know the name of the restaurant.  Next time.  They have the best enchiladas in mole - I may have mentioned that before - as well as pancita and chicken soup.  Lots of other good things too.
l-r: Alonso, Josefina, my mother-in-law, Arturo, me and Marcela
We rounded off the day walking around the center.  Arturo's mom is a great guide considering that she lived there for many years and Alfonso was born in the historic center.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Update on Puppy Caine

Puppy Caine spent a night at Purdue University so they could evaluate his heart.  Unfortunately, the vets are not optimistic about his chances for a long life.  They cannot even say whether he will see his first birthday.  However, he is happy being back home with his two siblings, both of whom will probably also be tested to see if they have the same heart problem.  I am going to cut and paste the update directly from Caine's people:

We are finally home. It’s been a long few days. I know everyone has been patiently waiting the news. Great news: Caine was amazing today. He was so bouncy and cheerful and full of puppy life. As soon as he got outside, he rolled and played in the grass. He was just so excited to be with us and on his way home. He made us laugh and forget our sadness. Good news: Everyone who cared for Caine over the last 24 hrs has been wonderful. He melted so many hearts there. We are thankful for all the love he received while he was away from home. Not so great news: Caine is still sick. His heart is very weak. He will continue to take medications daily to help his little heart beat. He also will be monitored by the doctors. Terrible news: As Caine grows, his heart will be compromised. I asked the doctor if we would get a year of life more with Caine and she shrugged. They could not tell us how much longer he will be with us, but with medication his quality of life will be better. He will be allowed to romp and play with his siblings and dig holes. He will be smothered with love until his last day with us. We promised him we would never give up so we will continue to believe in our 3 little miracles. I am hoping when miracles are being passed out, Caine is picked. 

The puppies are happy to be together and who knows?  
I'm sure the vets would be thrilled to see that Caine oulives their
prognosis!  Keep sending prayers to Caine and his brother and sister that they will enjoy a long dog's life!  Thank you.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Prayers for Little Puppy Caine and a Walk in the Neighborhood of Arturo's Beginnings

First, I want to say a couple of things about this cute little guy to my left.  He is one of the three surviving puppies of Mama Petunia, a pregnant pit bull who was brutally beaten, burned and left to die.  She survived long enough, with the help of a wonderful organization, Pittie Rescue, for the puppies to be born.  Only five of the puppies lived and unfortunately, because of the abuse and infections Mama Petunia had, two of those five died within the first several weeks.  Those of us following the story have had the opportunity to see the three remaining puppies grow, play and love being alive.  Now little Caine is sick.  There appears to be something wrong with his heart.

I know there are many humans in the world who are in need of help, prayers and monetary assistance.  However, we are for the most part the most fortunate ones in the world and I believe there is always a place in a heart for more compassion.  I'm praying for Caine and his remaining siblings to live and I hope you can add your own prayers.  No living being or animal deserves to be abused in any way. And I'm praying for the dogs' caretakers who have already had their hearts broken three times, that they not be broken again.

On to another topic, yesterday we went to the Centro of Mexico City searching for pumps and heaters for the outdoor jacuzzi that Arturo is building.  The Centro is the older part of Mexico City that still has every type of shop that you could need:  electrical, lighting fixtures, plumbing, fabric stores (my favorites!), hardware, etc.  Arturo's paternal grandfather had a machine shop in what is now a Best Western hotel, and his maternal grandmother had a "merceria" which is a store that sells threads, yarns, ribbons and some paper goods like notebooks.  The machine shop and the merceria were on the same street and that is how Arturo's parents met.  I love going to that area as it is like taking a step way back in history.

We didn't buy anything for the jacuzzi but we did walk for several hours, with the dogs of course, and Arturo collected many business cards filled with prices for what he wants.  We also ate there, I had enchiladas with mole and Arturo ate his favorite dish - caldo de pollo (chicken soup), which meant I didn't have to cook yesterday.

And I'll leave you with this goofy picture of Poukie that I took when we got back home yesterday.  Who knows what he was pouting about or if he was punishing himself for something.