Monday, December 31, 2012

Party time!

It was a hectic day of preparation for the "BIG PARTY"! 
There were flowers to be purchased and artfully arranged.

There were terraces to be "broomed" free of fallen bouganvillea blossoms,
only to be replaced minutes later by windfalls.

There were Moroccan candle covers to be placed on the stairs
and lit just before the guests arrived.

Magical images were cast along the stair wall from these carved metal shapes.

Miguel, the cook, arrived at 4pm with his assistant to prepare hors d'oeuvres.

Before the party started at 7pm, they created a total of 480 finger foods
including a cascade of shrimp attached to a pineapple.

At 6pm the pastor taco crew arrived to set up their taco stall on the terrace.

With a flick of his wrist, he added a small piece of pineapple to each taco!

Ninety guests started arriving at 7pm and soon filled the terraces.

Fortunately no one fell into the pool although several were discouraged from jumping in!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Christmas and Boxing Day

It feels like a whirlwind of activity since my last post but really it's only two days. Christmas dinner was   a delicious combination of flavours concocted by four of us. On Christmas eve I created a cranberry dish, cooking up craisins and orange juice. Then, after finding a can of cranberry sauce at a small deli, Rich decided to add kumquats and grand marnier to the canned contents for a second variety. Harvey made a yam casserole with pecans and maple syrup. Rich made cheese sauce for the cauliflower, adding some of his homemade mustard. The mashed potatoes were creamy. JAP made the stuffing with secret ingredients and I crammed it into the turkey cavities. The oven cooperated, on its own terms, finally reaching the desired temperature. Harvey carved, JAP made the gravy, John & Doug set the table and we finally sat down to share our meal at 8:45pm!!

Taking a break from turkey, we went to Hot Frida's last night for dinner. On several screens they show clips from old movies and campy little videos, some quite raunchy, all funny. Our waiter treated us all to slices of a decadent chocolate torte baked by a young woman who is just setting up a bakery here. It was a successful promotion for her.

During the two hours that we were in Hot Frida's, a dog lay sleeping at the feet of the fellow who was controlling the video content for the screens. We learned later that she was a three month old Great Dane!!! Hard to imagine was size she'll be in another year!

This morning five of us went for a long walk uphill and downhill, along the river and over to Gringo Gulch, along the malecon with a rest stop at Page in the Sun for coffee and freshly baked, hot muffins.
After a hike back uphill to the Quinta, the pedometer read 6.75km. The others were just getting out of bed at 10:30am!!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

He said "YES"

He said "YES"!

Our friends got engaged at the Quinta on Christmas Day!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Apple Chunk cookies

Yesterday was a new first...baking cookies with a Mexican at my feet! A delicious aroma filled the Quinta as Apple Chunk cookies were baked in one dozen batches in the little toaster oven. I didn't want to risk the gas oven which has been known to escalate in temperature erratically. The entire time, Beto was at my feet, working on a lower cupboard door. He smiled appreciatively as the first batch came out of the oven so I gave him the opportunity to test the first sample. Sitting on the floor, he gave me a "thumbs up" gesture!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Cafe des Artistes

This morning I discovered Calle Hidalgo, a street that I have driven along many times 
without paying much attention to the local attractions. 
Because it is a one-way traffic street, I had missed the facade 
of Cafe des Artistes, hidden behind trees.

It is a glorious celebration of Mexican art!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Mosaic revisited

The mosaic wall around the Elementary School changes every time I walk past.

Today I noticed a small tile with a dedication to MOE, a canine friend.

I couldn't resist adding my image to this mosaic
with the thought that we are each a unique mosaic,
a collection of experiences
coloured with time.

Monday, December 17, 2012

La Cruz de Huanacaxtle

Yesterday we drove to La Cruz de Huanacaxtle, about a 40 minute drive from the Puerto Vallarta. Friends had told us that there was a large Sunday market there to explore. They were right! The market stalls stretched all the way around the harbour, exhibiting jewelry, clothing, pottery, soaps, leather.... most of the items were handmade and unique.

These dolls were created by women prison inmates.

Beaded bracelets and anklets mounted on strips of leather.

Beaded ankle-toe decorations.

Hand painted cherubs and mermaids.

Crocheted and woven bags held together with pull tabs from beer/pop cans.

At one end of the stalls was an amazing array of food vendors selling Mexican, Italian, French and German cuisine. So tempting!! ... cakes, quiches, pizza, breads, empenadas, sausages!! At the other end we found the organic produce, flower, honey and fresh fish vendors. 

Outside Eve's Brickhouse, the owner did a steady business selling margaritas in large styrofoam cups and bottles of beer wrapped in woven wicker holders....all before noon! Background music was supplied by a three piece band performing songs from the '60s-'70s. Locals fished from the end of the piers while pelicans waited and watched, hoping to steal a meal.

Sunday, December 16, 2012


These facades were added to the side wall of a downtown hotel. Their sole purpose is to camouflage air conditioning units and hide electrical outlets. Clever and colourful!!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Life at the Quinta

Yesterday was a Mexican work day at the Quinta. At one point there were 12 guys assessing the work that was required to install electricals for a complete sound system on the exterior perimeter of the terrace. After much measuring, drilling, chipping, sweating, poking and was 6:30pm and the work that started at 9:00am was still not finished.

Two guys returned this morning to clean up yesterday's mess and to mount lights above the kitchen counter. At 4:40pm they are still here and we have been unable to access the kitchen all day!!

Thursday, December 13, 2012


Woke up to rain this morning and the day has continued to be cloudy. According to the forecast we should have sunshine again by Sunday. Temperature is around 27 degrees so we can't complain.

I have been working on a series of small paintings, adopting the vibrant colours of Mexico in a fun style. The boys are off to see the latest BOND film so dinner prep is in my hands. I hope to make "Heather's feta chicken breasts" with broccoli and rice. The challenge is figuring out what time to have dinner ready for the table.

Our Christmas tree is mounted on an end table but still needs a few decorations. It is created from metal with cutouts that allow Christmas lights to shine through.

Doug is still looking for the decorations and I am confident that the tree will be dressed before Christmas Day. It does seem odd to not hear a constant medley of Christmas music but the pilgrimages that have passed by on the road below have been wonderful. The last one had a full band and a choir of childrens' voices.

We will be six people for Christmas dinner. The other two will arrive on December 23rd and have offered to prepare the turkey dinner. For once, I plan to stay out of the kitchen, put my feet up and toast all the other mothers in the world who are slaving over a hot stove!!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

New plates

On a recent trip to Guadalajara and Tlaquapaque, the guys picked up some new plates to hang over the waterlily pond. Last year's plates were painted on the back. Over time the paint pealed off. These ones have the colours fused inside the glass. At the end of consultation, the decision was to hang only five of the plates.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012


I walked downtown this morning with hopes of catching the pilgrimage for "lost children". While I was waiting the the noon hour arrival, I sat in my favourite cafe and savoured an Americano with a tiny chocolate croissant. Buses and taxis rushed by this little oasis as I attempted some creative thinking! Hah!! Everything was percolating in my mind as I envisioned future paintings and drafted lines of poetry. Then I took a sip of coffee, almost inhaled a wasp and spilled the rest of the coffee on my white
pants! That's the second coffee spilled on those pants. The first was on the flight down here!

The owner kindly helped me to mop up before I made my way to the Cathedral. Sitting on a bench, I looked at the shop displays and had a rare moment of inspiration for the series of 5" square paintings
that I hope to finish while staying here. The pilgrimage never did pass my way but I did rediscover the
excitement of Mexican colour!




hats and fabrics

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Home again

He's home and feeling much better. Chocolate delivery tomorrow for Dr. Lupita and Esmeralda!!

Another hospital visit??

On Friday morning a friend visited and insisted that she should take John to her Doctor for assessment. After examination,  Doctor Lupita admitted him to hospital for rehydration and testing. He was placed in "suite 3", given antibiotics and a saline drip. It didn't take long for him to start feeling better.  Doctor Lupita visited him four times. His INR was high and he was totally dehydrated. Later that day he was served some soup, juice and tea. His suite had air conditioning, a TV, telephone and a private bathroom with shower. The only issue remaining to resolve was our travel medical coverage.

The next morning I arrived to find him in good shape, well hydrated and about to eat his first solid food...pancakes with fresh fruit.

Does he look sick to you? I personally think that he has developed an addiction to hospital food!

Later in the morning I went to check with Esmerelda about our medical insurance. She had offered to help me with the forms that our company was emailing to her. Her office is more like an extended closet with a display case of gift shop items for sale along one wall.

Esmerelda grew up in Chicago so her English has a slight Chicago inflection with no trace of Spanish at all. She has been very helpful and I am very grateful.

The pilgrimage

Dr. Lupita visited John several times on Saturday but was reluctant to release him until he had donated an appropriate sample for analysis. After being overworked, his colon refused to cooperate. I spent the day with him, waiting for action.

Around 3:00 I looked down from his window to see three people arrive with large colourful masks.

By 4:00pm, there was a much larger group ranging in age from 3 years to about 50 years of age.

I was really intrigued and decided that it was time to get a closer look. They weren't masks. Instead they were head dresses. The animal heads would rest on top of the performers' heads.

I knew that they were going to take part in a pilgrimage to the Cathedral but no one seemed to know what time they would depart. For centuries the Virgin of Guadalupe has been venerated by Mexicans and during the first 12 days of December many pilgrimages are made to Our Lady of Guadalupe parish.

When Dr. Lupita visited John again at 5pm she explained that it was the Hospital's pilgrimage that would take place at 6pm. She invited me to join the group. I was hesitant but learned that others who were not hospital employees would be walking with the group so I thought "why not"!?

Young members of the performing group were trying to attach their backpacks to the police ATV before putting on their head dresses.

The hospital staff was assembled behind an ambulance. We were each handed a candle, carnations and song sheets before being given directions to "dod y dos"...pair up! It wasn't likely that I would have a willing partner so I stayed with a mother and daughter pair.

The scene inside the ambulance ensured that all bases were covered. Children were dressed as a nurse, doctor, patient, angel and the virgin herself!! During the 45 minute walk to the Cathedral, the little angel never dropped her praying hands!!

My walking partners were lovely. Mother and grandmother were equally in love with the gorgeous child they carried. Closer to the Cathedral street vendors sold Mexican snacks and hundreds of people had gathered in the hopes of watching pilgrimages as they arrived. Every two blocks along the way, the performers with animal head dresses stopped to dance and play music. Traffic was halted for us at every intersection. The Cathedral bells rang as we entered and a priest sprinkled holy water on the participants.

The largest pilgrimage will be on December 11th as a tribute to the disadvantaged and to lost children. It is scheduled for around noon so I hope to be there for some photos.

My only regret was that I couldn't leave the procession to run ahead and photograph the masked  performers. It would have been rude. I returned to the hospital to find that John's situation had not changed. He would spend another night in Suite 3 at Hopital Med Assist.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Our Anniversary?

Now it's John's turn! A Doctor visited today and based on John's symptoms, diagnosed salmonella poisoning, gave him a shot of antibiotics in each cheek and prescriptions for anti-nausea meds. Recovery could take a few days and a lot of rehydration.

The Doctor arrived in a red camaro convertible. He was enveloped in a cloud of cologne and had masses of long dark hair tied up at his neck. A small satchel held everything from a portable ECG machine to a remote digital heat monitor. He was an Internist!!...and he charged a specialist's fee!!

What a way to celebrate our anniversary! Just the two of us and a big orange bucket!!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012


After three days of hovering near a toilet, I think that the worst is over. Last night's sleep was uninterrupted and a little porridge seems to be sitting okay this morning. The pool even looks inviting!!

JAP is the master chef, Doug looks after dishes and laundry, Pacheta cleans the house three times a week so my assistance hasn't been missed. John has spent the last three days travelling up and down the stairs with water and soda crackers.

"Lazing around" seems to be the preferred way to pass time down here with necessary visits to the outside world for groceries. Even the cat finds life to be very enjoyable!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Today's visitor

The stairs are 40 inches across!!

Friday, November 30, 2012


We have a breeze again today. I am hoping that the idea of a weather change with the full moon will bring easier sleeps. This morning was a "biggie" for John as he walked down the hill from the house, all the way into town, along to the main square and back to the elementary school where we hailed a taxi for the trip home!!! Bravo!!!

The downtown schoolyard is enclosed with a cement wall. On the exterior, volunteers are encouraged to create mosaic designs. We heard school children rehearsing a Spanish version of Jingle Bells while we stood outside.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Quinta las Pinas

There have been some changes at Quinta las Pinas. The sunporch on the middle level has an extended overhang that will eventually be covered with a canopy of multi coloured bouganvillea that was planted in four hand painted pots. The branches already reach up through the overhang, ready to weave between the slats. By the time we leave at the end of January, there will be a rainbow of coloured blossoms!

It is still humid and very warm during the day and night. Apparently the weather is cooling but after our first sweaty night, I am not convinced....however I am not complaining!!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Sunday morning at Westminster Quay

Three guys at play
on Sunday morning at Westminster Quay.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

American Thanksgiving

A celebration of American Thanksgiving
includes an annual cribbage tournament!

Annual reunion

At least once every year we gather with a group of friends for lunch in Vancouver. John's friendship with one of the group dates back to 1941 when, as a 4 year old, he stole Larry's toy. The others came together at Magee High School in 1951.

Stories of their past adventures, repeated over and over from year to year, still bring many chuckles. Of course the stories have not been embellished over time!