June 29, 2011

Friday: Yucca Pie!

If you're vacationing on Isla Mujeres, may I suggest your save Friday for yucca pie at Qubano Restaurant. Vivian Reynaldo was born in Cuba and raised in New York City and later lived in Miami, where she was an interior decorator.
In the Caribbean, almost every country has it's own yucca root recipes. The Mayas used to use it like potatoes before potatoes were revealed to them.
In those days, it is said, few people got fat because of this high fiber vegetable with complex carbs. Now, the Maya prefer to cook and soak the yucca root in honey and eat it like candy. Hondurans make a yucca pie that is also based on sweets.
Vivian's is a real Cuban deal! She cooks the peeled roots for three hours and the piccadillo for a similar time. That is ground beef with an assortment of spices, sweet peppers, garlic and onion. I don't know the recipe! But the pie is then baked with those two main mixtures.
The result is similar to sheppherd's pie. The portion is HUGE. Since at $150 pesos this is likely to be your spendiest lunch on the island, that's a good thing!
But what a treat! I immediately telegraphed this to my Puerto Rican friend Felipe in Cleveland. He was smitten with her tostones (fried plantain) sandwiches last year. I could hear him smacking his lips when he replied to me!
Steve Broin from Casa Sirena returned from Merida in time to make this lunch last week and also thought it was divine! It's served with several toston on the side and mojo: onions in oil to spoon over the top.
This lunch calls for a light dinner and if you're going diving or whale sharking in the morning, that is just what you'll want to have. Provecho!
So, today is Wednesday. Start planning! You and your other half could split this and a Vivian's salad and walk away without loosening your belt! Oh, the possibilities!

June 28, 2011

Tropical Waves 4 and 5 wind down for Punta

It was a long three-day weekend for me. I am a dog and my name is Punta.
By Sunday, I was going crazy with the onda tropical, tropical wave. There actually two and now NOAA calls them Invest 95 in the Gulf of Mexico. It had rained since Saturday morning. I was peeing in the shower because I can't stand to go in the rain!
Mom's good about letting me go there and pours bleach on it and rinses. Whew! What a relief, because I was crying and didn't know what to do.
I thought it was over Monday when Mom told me to go out and make kaka. It was still raining and I don't do that in the rain. But I thought if I got in the golf cart, Mom would take me someplace where it was not raining. No luck. I toughed it out. Then this morning, the sun came out, if you can call it that.
And we went! At 6am! Woo hoo! First, to my spot, across the street from the church. I did it all. Then I saw the snake. It smelled so good, I had to roll in it. There was barely anything left. It had been about a week since the boa was killed by a vehicle. But there was enough to get it on both sides of my body! Woowee! Mom was mad.
But she took me to big water anyway, and that smelled even better as the waves broke over the rocks. Her friend is babysitting two dogs and taking care of a house. So I got to play. Baby is my favorite new best friend.
But you got to hand it to boys. They do appreciate what you do to be attractive, even if moms don't. Ticker was all over my body to get at the boa cologne.
Mom had some strawberries with her friend and shared her half an English muffin with me. Then we rode around Punta Sur (Yes, I am Punta) and I ran when the coast was clear. Mom watches that I don't run where big bad dogs live and she tells me which are the bad dogs. Then, she went to the SuperXpress and I stayed (on a leash) and she got some Ritz crackers. She said the tropical wave would have been nicer for her if she'd had something like that in the house.
Then we went to her breakfast place, the one she pays a week ahead. Well, they needed LP, gas. So we were just in time and the back-up tank was bought. Mom got a salbute and fed me most of the chicken on it!
There is a rip in the car upholstery (not my fault) so we went looking for sticky paper or emblems, something to patch with. Bruno didn't have any, the refraccionarios didn't either. Mom wound up getting contact paper at Federico's. And then guess what? We came home and she washed all that lovely cologne off my body! I hope Ticker still likes me next time.





June 26, 2011

Help Liberty School

My friend Marla Bainbridge, an Isla Mujeres resident and international educational consultant, has been working with local parents who wanted another type of school for their elementary and pre-school children. Critical thinking skills are what the parents were after.
Marla started working with them and has produced this YouTube video explaining the philosophy. Click here. Liberty School Isla Mujeres ( www.libertyschoolmexico.org) is going to be a reality soon and a summer camp will be held for enrichment and school readiness.
This is going to take money, more money than the parents can invest in this low economy. The children are those of expats as well as Mexicans. It takes more than our village to educate our children.
Luckily, she has found two retailers who will donated a large percentage purchases this week the the school. You must specify Liberty School when you order.
"Children Inspire Design's and Fresh Words Market is offering 50% of the proceeds this week for our sales. This is way above the standard donation so we want to take full advantage of the opportunity." Marla stated.
She sent out messages to her Facebook friends over the weekend, a strenuous one that saw the funeral of her boyfriend's aunt. Elmy Martinez, Javier Martinez Cen's aunt was the sister of his father Tosito, and was an art teacher at the Secundaria School here on Isla Mujeres, the middle school.
After the funeral, Marla sent out the information to her Facebook friends so we could inform our friends of the benefit sales:
Liberty School's official opening is just around the corner and we've been working to get everything ready for our students. We've created a beautiful space where children are free to learn and teachers are free to support their learning styles and interests.
As a new school on a limited budget, there are still items we need thus an opportunity for you to be part of Liberty School. We are reaching out to our friends and family to help us raise $1,000 USD.We've partnered with two companies, Children Imspired Design and Fresh Words Market to host a virtual fundraiser on their web sites. Make sure you include the purchase is for LIBERTY SCHOOL. (Links below)

The way it works is simple. Order any product on either site this week, between June 26 and July 2, add Liberty School in the memo box, and they will donate 50% proceeds to Liberty School.
  • This is an amazing opportunity because not only do they offer products that are directly in line with the philosophy of Liberty School, it's a great way to stock up on gifts for yourself and others while raising much needed money.
    Stock up on art prints for adults and children, journals, note cards, stationary, educational tools (in 11 different languages), PDF downloads AND women's cooperative products, made here in Isla Mujeres. These companies focus on global compassion, environmental education and inspiring individuals. So, put your spending power for a great cause. Stock up now for birthdays, anniversaries, holiday giving, thank you gifts and more!!

    How it Works:
    Visit one of the URL’s and shop between June 26 and July 2. www.childreninspiredesign.com and www.freshwordsmarket.com
    At checkout, include the words Liberty School in the memo box. (IMPORTANT!!)

    Both sites sell items great for your kids, your own crafting needs or art cravings. You'll really be helping our island's little ones get off to a good start in life!

June 23, 2011

Isla Snake!

Lookie what Punta found on her morning walk. A dead snake! For as long as I remember, there was denial that Isla Mujeres has snakes. Then, a year or two ago, there was alarm when a boa constrictor "large enough to kill a child" was hunted down in the swamp that was next do the new hospital construction.
This morning, almost across the street, near Haciena Mundaca, Punta found this one, a victim of a vehicular accident. Not being up on my snakes, I asked some Maya workers if it was poisonous. No, it's a boa! Oh, OK.

June 21, 2011

Mais naturellement ! Je suis fran├žais !

Can you tell LoLo is heading for Brussels today? Luchien looks so, well, FRENCH, instead of like a clean mop. Son Valerio had a couple days to get a healthy tan. And LoLo continued to walk with weights until the last day then cooked a feast for 20 last night. Ah yes, I was but one person. Steve from Casa Sirena and Vivian from Cubano and I were seated at the same table with a producer from "48 Hours" and her partner, a white collar crime federal investigator.
Excellent food, great company, fun stories. I'll miss that for the next three months while LoLo laps up the rays at her parents' villa in Portugal. But not until after she's hit the streets for some food and boogie in Brussels. See you when you get back, LoLo! Have a nice champagne and caviar for me. Squirt limon persa liberally in your water!

June 20, 2011

Hoarding vs Pantry

Last week, I was explaining the concept of American pantries to my Mexican friends. A bodega for the kitchen. What Mexicans call despensas, food basket basics, with a few additions of sale, canned and long shelf life items are what we call pantry items.
Mostly because of space, and due to money, Mexicans generally don't keep great pantries, even in hurricane season. They tend to go to the store when the warnings are up and "compra en panico", panic buy, as Ricardo at Ronco calls it.
Six years ago, when the warnings were up for Hurricane Wilma, Ricardo made a trip to Walmart for the store for necessities. He saw locals with bags of candy. compras en panico, and laughed about it.
But you know, when we got our food baskets after the hurricane, and it was obligatory we take them because the docks were out, there were animal crackers for the sweet! So, it is a vital part of the diet.
Not me. I bought dried beans and American canned beans, which I find comforting out of the can when there weather is nasty. I got other canned stuff, veggies. Because after a food hurricane, the land is stripped of its crops, including our health green bush, chaya.
So I've got my pantry set. Now I feel I have to prove I am not a hoarder!

June 17, 2011

Bargain Breakfasts

Many visitors to the island assume I'm not having a good time, since they don't see me in Centro much any more. I am here today to say it's a great life. Carolina's breakfast and supper nook in La Gloria is my daily breakfast joint. Above is the omelet (homelet because the H is always silent!) that I had Wednesday.
And today's huevos motulenos. 35 pesos a plate. At least 45 in town. Plus we get to gossip! No, it wouldn't mean anything to you because you don't know the same people. Really. Trust me.

June 16, 2011

Thrifty

Joe Peters, of Fort Worth, and I have at least one thing in common. We are thrifty as in cheap. So, when he was on Isla Mujeres a couple weeks ago, we made a lunch date. The first plan was to go to Velasquez, the family fish house, for whole fishes.
Then I surveyed the scene at Posada del Mar, where Joe was staying, and decided to do what we could to stave off layoffs. No one can operate for long with a near empty house and not make deep cuts. So we ate there. Thrifty.
We each got a small 80 peso shrimp cocktail and split a club sandwich and fries (55 pesos). We had a fabulous lunch, a great time with Romy at the bar, and spent a wee bit more than we planned. But look at the table! We were stuffed!
Joe was happy because he was within budget, only to be blown later in a trip to Mango Cafe! Ahh, the life!

June 15, 2011

Got change?

This morning, after Punta had finished her rounds and we picked up a couple mangos, we went to Carolina's for breakfast. At 30 pesos, it's a great deal. I got the huevos a la Mexicana, a scramble with tomatoes and chilis.
I offered all I had - 200 pesos. "No tiene cambio?" Dontchya have change? "No, gasto." No, I spent it. And so it goes every morning, every afternoon, every place you try to do business.
With Carolina, an old friend, I said. here's 200 pesos and open an account. "Puede comer todo semana. " You can eat all week. Exactly. And not fish for change!
Carolina is struggling. I saw her run to the corner for tomatoes after I had ordered and the Zeta gas guys paid for their breakfast. But in many cases, there is no excuse. Business owners feel a need to deposit their total at the end of the day, leave clerks without the ability to make change, and come back at night to gather more money for the bank.
I never understood why someone would risk a transaction by not having change! But they manage. Clerks go to neighbors, to their children, whatever, to make change.
At the guest house, I tell people to hoard their change. Before a week, they will see why this is good.
As an aside to this, when I got the hang of hoarding change, I was carrying it in a zip lock baggie. "The Mexican business woman's wallet" as it's referred to around here. It is all the rage to be so rich you need to carry your change in a baggie. If not rich, then smart. Because there will always be a customer like me who isn't completely truthful and might just have enough change for a 30 peso breakfast. Of course that would leave me broke with 200 pesos notes the rest of the day! No, not me. I've got change! And it's growing.

June 12, 2011

Taking stock

I won't go into reasons it has taken me nearly three weeks to blog. Well, OK, at the top of the list is that I am feeling a good bit lazy and am at odds with my blog is supposed to be anyway. Foreigners are supposed to stay out of Mexican politics - we all agreed to that to stay here - so commenting on current events is something to be careful about. So...
Is it about living the dream in a tourist destination? Is it about managing that dream without melting down? I mean in the psychological as well as physical sense, because to me, it's hotter than paradise now and multiple sclerosis at that point defines me. My friends here know I say I am shorting out when I am too hot, and God only knows if they know what I mean. Multiple sclerosis is a disease of the central nervous system and I liken my wiring to that an old house. The frayed wires don't conduct electricity so well in the heat, but the natural vitamin D is soothing to my immune system, which controls the MS. I also supplement with prescribed Vitamin D3, more on that later. Oh, I see blog definition ahead.
Today I took my interferon shot, with is classified as an immumodulatory, and and am resting inside in the AC, which had been running more or less at full tilt for two days now. I know, you have it worse. But I'm pondering this question of what the blog is supposed to be. So...
The AC is running at full blast, the bill will be hard to pay, and eventually, the hurricanes will make it unnecessary. Eventually, the hurricane plan will take over. But first...
In checking the generator, it was determined it need a new spark plug. Very simple. A small motor plug, like for a riding lawn mower or...a generator. I bought my generator at Costco the spring after Hurricane Wilma nearly six years ago. And so did a lot of other people. Last week, said spark plug could not be found in Cancun by Carlos Telliz, my cabbie and man in Cancun, a Chilango who can find anything. We started at Costco. No hay! One to hardware stores in the small motor section of town. None. He has a friend who is an electrician who goes frequently to Merida and Carlos bets he can get one.
Enter Facebook. A woman from Brewster OH brought me one last week. Ex boyfriend is sending two to Johanna, who is arriving in a month. I'm covered. And neighbors are probably covered as well in that case!
So now I am on the issue of the cartridges that are filters in my Intex above the ground pool. A sweet little thing that is 10-feet wide in its circle resecting diameter. Cheap at Amazon. com.
For a pool I got at Sam's Club last year, no filters. I am on the last of the filters, which the handy man has been able to make last about to about a month or so through careful washing and care in rinsing these five buck filters. Oh, but in Mercado Libre, the Mexican equivalent of eBay, they want WHAT???
Not that I have a problem with that, but you have to wire, as in Moneygram to them, before they will ship. There is not PayPal for transactions totally within Mexico.
I hate feeling like this, needy. I have just shot an email to a mid summer renter arriving by car with her dog. Could she carry six in her car if I send them from Amazon? She'll be using the pool, after all.
So politics aside, what kind of marketing push pull system puts me in this situation?
I have lived with these pools since I hand carried the first 8-foot one in a storage bin in luggage (when luggage wasn't such an issue) nearly six years ago and have now bought my fourth version by buying at two of the four stores in Cancun that sell Intex pools, not filters. Chedraui used to sell the filters, not anymore.
Costco was the latest place I saw a hard side pool Intex with the same filter. They had no filter cartridges for sale either. Nor Soriana, where I bought the first 10-foot pool. Nor Cherdraui, where I bought filters the first two years. Everyone just came to know if you bought a pool at Soriana, you could get filters at Chedraui. Or from Oscar the pool tech and designer of real in-ground pools. He has some clients that have them for their kids, to keep them out of the adult pool, which is no deeper. a little under 40 inches. He hasn't a clue where to find the cartidges now.
I haven't seen this filter on sale in Isla Mujeres or Cancun for more than a year! See what a good stock-piler I have been?
We were down to two when Tanos arrived with three. Enter the woman from Boston and her dog. We shall see. Will she really understand?
People who want to move here wonder every day what lies ahead. Let me tell you a bit using Vitamin D3 as an example.
In research and university affiliated hospitals in the US, doctor are prescribing what seem to be mega doses of Vitamin D3. Family history of osteoporosis, colon cancer and auto immune disease and patients are reflagged for it. So, I take 5,000 to 8,000 IU, international units, a day.
I bought well in Ohio last October and Johanna brought me some. After months of looking, I found some Nature Made in Walmart. At a glance, I assumed they were 4000IU. So held them a month or so and I popped them open. And looked closer. They are 400IU, the current MDR, not withstanding all the hot shot doctors in teaching hospitals in the US, los Estados Unidos de America. Not to be confused with los Estados Unidos de Mexico.
I love the latter. I am confident that the forces of good will prevail in the drug war and have nothing to say about those waging the wars nor their foot soldiers. It's all in the marketing.
Which brings me back to how I've spent the last month. Conniving. Getting pool filters, spark plugs, maybe get some Vitamin D3 to me here in Mexico.
I guess this is a redefinition of the blog. Enough with the snapshots and light text about this or that repair or the dog's life. What is it like to live here? Even with a little money, you have to get used to being poorer here. Because there are some things you just can't get here with any amount of money and are therefore dependent on the kindness of strangers.
So, in the future, I'll be using less snapshots and more thought about what it's really like to live here. That's all I have to talk about with some authority now. First, let me see how I can get some high dose Vitamin D3. I'll check back later.