Monday, December 15, 2014

What's in my pantry...

Grocery shopping here in Merida is a little different from what I am used to back in the USA. Not bad or anything, just different. First of all we try to get most of our fruits and vegetables at the mercado and than get all of the rest in grocery stores, Costco or at last resort Walmarts. We can find typical American products here. Sometimes you can find something once and than it disappears. So the saying among expats is: if you see it, sometimes use it now 'cause it could be months or more before you see it again! However the expat community has a great grapevine approach in several face book pages that people post what they find and where... and the herd descends on the store and it's gone in no time!

What makes our shopping a little crazy is that Carlos has celiac, an autoimmune condition that makes him intolerant to any type of gluten. It has gotten easier finding gluten free products here.... it's about like it was in the USA 6 years ago. So if we find anything we buy it. Like the pasta above, The main choice here in gluten free is corn based pasta...however it's not our favorite. Whenever we find a brown rice based gluten free pasta we stock up. The same goes for cookies, crackers, and breads.

Sometimes I score big. I've now found half and half at Superama, and yesterday I scored some Italian type type chopped tomatoes in a brand I recognized! Before I could never find broth in a liquid form and now I find it everywhere..

One little thing that I love is some of the packaging here. I love to buy tomato sauce in the little foil type envelopes and the milk in the boxes is great!

Many times when Carlos and I head out to shop we plan on making one, two or even three or more stops at different stores to get what we want. Oh yeah, I also have my muled down from the USA shelf....


Thursday, December 11, 2014

We are all settling in..

Kiwi,Gus and Persimmon nap on the couch
We've now been in Merida for more than 4 weeks. I've had many people question not only how Carlos and I are settling in, but more importantly how the cats are getting on.
I think it's been a challenge to get the cats used to being here. First off, I can't get their favorite foods here, the wet food available is of the most basic kind. I did bring several weeks worth with us but the supply is quickly dwindling. I've bought all that I can find to try and I think I may have something they will eat.... though I am on the receiving end of a dirty look or two.
This house is designed for indoor/outdoor living and for the first two weeks the cats were contained mostly in the main three rooms of the house.

Now I am letting them out but at night I do not. Two of them have gone across the rooftops to the property next door. Gus, the maine coon got stuck and I had to climb over a fence with the help of a young neighbor (who didn't speak any English) to rescue him. Persimmon went over the rooftop and came back without his collar and tags and let me tell you cat collars are very difficult to find here!
Two days ago my worse fear happened when I found Bleu-Berri soaking wet after a tumble and a swim from the pool! Now I didn't see it happen so I don't know how good of a swimmer he is, but somehow he managed to get out and now he gives it a pretty wide berth!
Bleu after his swim

For the most part of the days the cats are looking for places to nap and they have been busy finding ones that either they feel secure in or an area with a great cross breeze.
Persimmon likes the pantry shelves

Gus still likes the couch

Bleu hides in a cabinet crevasse

Kiwi is a fan of cross breezes and the cool tiles

Monday, December 8, 2014

Hanging Your Clothes.....yes, it's zen like

There is nothing better than the smell and feel of sun dried clothing fresh off the clothesline. As sunlight is a natural sanitizing and bleaching agent it's perfect for killing insects, bacteria, and other germs. As a dryer is not being used, energy is saved, which is really a plus here in the Yucatan. 
I find that hanging clothes out is a zen like experience. As it takes time to hang out the load of clothes, it becomes a good time to feel the breeze, check out the roof tops close by and spend some quality time with Kiwi the cat who likes to supervise.
I remember my childhood when hanging clothes was the norm. We lived in upstate NY where the freezing cold of winter had us bring in frozen sheets, and carefully hanging them on some inside lines to finish drying. With six kids I don't think that my mother considered it a zen experience, rather it was just another form of drudgery. She celebrated when a dryer was bought, but as she was a frugal house person clothes were still hung outside when the weather was nice.
When we designed the house I wanted a roof top hanging area. I saw clothes hung on roofs in Egypt, Spain and Italy. To me it made sense. There is usually a breeze over the rooftops and like the places mentioned above, sunlight here in the Yucatan is plentiful and FREE! 
So several weeks ago we finally purchased a washing machine and almost every other day I have washed and hung some clothes. I find it one of the most enjoyable house tasks ever and each night I sleep on the sun dried sheets and my dreams are as sweet as the sheets smell!

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Buying at the Mercado

In Mexico there are the grocery stores and than there's the Mercado....Grocery stores are usually chains looking very much similar to what we are used to north of the border. Mercados look more like our farmers markets, however they are everyday, not just one or more days a week.

Today Carlos decided that we need some fresh veggies, so off he went with his backpack to the main market, called Lucas de Galvez, downtown. It's about 3 miles south of us so it's a bit of a walk, but it's also something that he enjoys doing. I've gone with him many times, but not today as we had a workman at the house doing some installations of smoke detector, towels bars and other basic items. The mercado is a feast of color, noise and smells and can be overwhelming on a hot day. However today is one of those perfect Merida Days when it's only mid-eighties and there's a slight breeze.
The Mercado is much more than a veggie market, you can eat lunch, have your shoes resoled (while you wait), buy a machete, a dog, some clothes and have a key made. But today we only needed some vegetables!

Carlos returned home with his bounty and this is what he bought... 5 carrots, 7 potatoes, 1 large avocado, lettuce, a large cabbage, three green peppers, 5 roma tomatoes, 7 white onions, and three limes. The cost for all? Just under $6.00 US. Fresh and delish, Mexican style.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Driving through Mexico - The final part

When we left Villahermosa it was pouring rain, roads were flooded and detours were many. Also we were driving over some of the worst roads of our trip. Think pot holes that jarred the car so hard that the door alarm went off. Luckily there was not a peep from the cats.
We took MX 180 which went along the bay of Campeche. The weather in the US had produced an "El Norte" which are winds coming across the Gulf. Wow was the sea angry. Huge crashing waves almost to the road. Pretty scary winds made driving very difficult and tiring. We went in and out of rain storms and hoped that we would drive out of the weather soon.

We arrived into the small beach town of Champoton. Seeing a Pemex station with a Italian Coffee Company (like a Starbucks) we stopped. It looked pretty popular as there were lots of people standing around and many stopped tour buses. Think German tourists... But we than find out through the Federal Police that there is a labor protest ahead and the road into Campeche is closed by this protest. But however we are not to despair...the District and Federals have made a detour so we can go around this disturbance....problem is that it will take an extra 2 hours on the back roads. Because the roads are rural and narrow only cars and small vans can go this way. What should have been said was that only 4 wheel drive could travel this way.

We started off with pretty good roads. At intersections there were police pointing us the right way. There were many cars and they jostled for position and passed in a desperate way. Scary. The good roads quickly became roads that we could only travel at about 20 mph....however there were pickup trucks and vehicles like taxi's that were going at least 50 mph. In some places the roads were close on being impassable....think single lane bridge made out of logs...
Finally at about 5:30 we were approaching Campeche and the road to Merida. We debated staying the night in Campeche, but the road seemed that it would be fine as it was a 4 lane highway and we remembered that it was fairly new. So we chanced it, even though we had not driven 'after dark' the whole trip.
3 Hours later we pulled up in front of our house. Carlos, I and the 4 cats were tired, hungry and happy!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Driving to Mexico - Part II

We drove into Mexico early on Saturday morning. No problems, the border patrol US dude just waved us through, though he did ask where we were going. When Carlos mentioned Merida, his response was that he heard it was cheap to live there. On the Mexican side we were not even stopped. Customs just waved us through as well. The 800.00 dollars I spent on the three cats getting their international health certificates were not even used. I figure if I hadn't gotten them, it would be the first thing customs would want to see.. 
Carlos had ordered our auto temporary import permit via the Internet and we placed them on the windshield the night before, so that didn't even have to be done. But like many, we travelled down the road about 25 km to find out that we had neglected to get our visa stamped at the border, so back we went. The customs official was actually pretty funny. He told us that we could go on instead of returning to Nuevo Laredo and take care of the problem when we arrived in Merida...however he said, you'll have to come back here to take care of the problem...your choice!
When we had accomplished this we were off down the roads in Mexico....our first night we planned to stop and stay in Mantenhuala, which is south of Monterrey. There we checked into our first auto hotel, named Hotel Real.. We really lucked out, it was the first one coming into town and it was clean and comfortable. The cats enjoyed it as well.

After loading up the car the next morning we were off. The cats only cried for the first hour than settled in for the rest of the day. The scenery was beautiful.

A full day of driving found us searching for a place just outside of Puebla for the night. Many of the auto hotels there did not have a garage door, just a heavy curtain. We finally found one with a garage door, but the room was above so all we needed for the night had to be carried up a steep flight of stairs. Another problem was that the rooms were not really soundproof and did not have the buffer of a garage between them. This place was pretty busy. They must have thought we were into something pretty kinky as Gus choose this night to start complaining with his Yowls at about 3 am! We ended up keeping the TV on all night.
The next morning I loaded up the car pretty quick and we were off. Cats settled in quick and most of the day was uneventful.The mountains coming down out of the mountains were breathtaking..the roads were good, but all that huge truck traffic was pretty scary. There were many tunnels as well as mucho of down and more down. Spectacular!

Arriving into Villahermosa we were ready to call it a day. We found a great little auto hotel, ordered a meal delivered to the dumb waiter into our room and just kicked back. This was the nicest auto hotel yet.
In the middle of the night it started to pour and did so all night and into the next day. There must have had at least 5-6 inches of  rain. Streets were flooded and we had to do several detours the next day just leavening Villahermosa. 

Next comes the final.......

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Love (Hotels) Across Mexico

Love Hotels also called Auto Hotels are an interesting resource in Mexico, Immaculately clean, with some rather interesting decor, the hotels were an interesting solution to our travelling with pets.

 Here is how they work. You drive through the gates of the hotel, and clerk comes out to your car. You tell her how long you want the room. The minimum is 4 hours.. She gives you the room number and you drive and park in that garage, check out the room and meet her again outside the room. If the room is satisfactory, you pay the amount, close the garage door and you're in. No names, no keys...very discreet and also a great way to sneak in 4 cats waiting in cages in the car.

And no need to unload the car full of boxes and suitcases. The only drawback is that the place can be rocking...if you know what I mean! We usually booked at the 24 hour rate which would be about 40.00 US... and they always threw in some free condoms...

Monday, November 17, 2014

Driving to Mexico -Part 1

We left St Louis early Thursday. We had packed the car the night before but as expected not everything fit I had to make some choices, which of course I did not want to do.
The first choices of course was to keep the new outdoor cantilever umbrella we bought last fall, as well as the 4 cats and their cages. Plus I also took a carrier in case Grumpy Gus was impossible...which he was..another story. Than some boxes of Carlos special gluten free foods which we have not been able to find in Merida, clothes, computers, cat foods for the persnickety felines, our personal pillows and a few personal papers that we thought we might need sooner than later..So the car looked like this:

The first day we went as far as Denton, Texas. For the first several hours I had caterwauling cats, even though I had given them, or most of them anyway, a light sedative. After about 4 hours they settled down and sleep most of the time. For the first two nights we stayed in Motel 6's as they welcome pets...the room were just OK. At an average of 50.00 a night I thought it was a good choice as not many chains will accept pets.
Day 2 we went to Laredo, Texas. This time I did not bother to sedate the cats and they settled down after a hour with only occasional protests. We arrived in Laredo fairly early and just had an early night as we wanted to cross the border early in the AM as most people suggest. We took the time to put on our Mexican car TIP (temporary import permit) onto our car windshield, This we had applied for on the Internet and we received it in a week! Unheard of!
And that was our first two days on the road!

Saturday, November 8, 2014

We are in Countdown Mode..

We decided it was a beautiful day and we love the St Louis Zoo in the fall. The animals are active and it is truly one of the most beautiful zoos in the US. So we loaded up the kids and got an early morning start to beat the crowds.

Halloween is now behind us. All the kids did their trick or treat from our house and a great time was had by all. Treat bags were filled to the brim and they didn't seem to mind the cold and windy weather. Its time now to get serious about leaving before the snow start to fall.

I've been working on the Menaje de casa for the last month or so. Carlos and I went to the storage bin and went through all the boxes and numbered them. The few pieces of furniture we are taking are also numbered. The spreadsheet is done and translated. Now I am just going through the house and gathering a few more things and adding them to the list.When Carlos comes back after our visas are finalized he will handle getting the list approved and everything transported. I understand now why people just bring the bare minimum. 

We are almost ready to get on the road. Yes, loading the cats into the car, filling the tank and telling the Garmin where we need to go. Yes, 5 days with 4 cats. Who hate cages and who hate riding in cars, mainly because that usually means going to the VETS! That is where we took them 2 days ago. Shots, international health certificates, a few pills to take off the edge of fear and almost $700.00 US later one more task was off the list.

We received our visas in Miami at the end of our cruise...Our Mexican car insurance is purchased and our sticker has been applied for....we are deciding what else can fit in the van with us and the cats and we hope to be on the road Thursday of this week and cross the border on Saturday morning. Keep your fingers crossed, say some prayers for us and send us any advice you may have....Thanks and see you all in Merida!