Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Quilting at Minglewood (click for link to their page)

I spent Friday, Saturday and Sunday at Minglewood Lodge near Gretna, Nebraska, with 9 other quilters. We worked on lots of different projects and had a great time. The lodge is new, finished last fall. It is a great spot for a get away like we had, and not too expensive. You could have 11 people stay if two people do not mind sleeping together in a double bed. The rest of the beds are all twin size, two or three to a room. I would like to get another group together that could go during the week.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

The Sherlockian (book review)

Finished The Sherlockian last week. It is written by Graham Moore, and I enjoyed it a lot. I have read a lot of the Sherlock Holmes books which as you know, were written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. The Sherlockian is about solving the mystery of Doyle's missing diary from October through December 1893. The Baker Street Irregulars were expecting one of their own to reveal the missing diary at their meeting in January 2010. He, of course, turns up dead instead of turning up at the meeting where he was to reveal all. Newest member, Harold White, sets out to solve the murder and to find the missing diary.
Author Moore uses the device of alternating between Harold White in 2010 and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in 1893 and gives us the explanation of the missing diary. If you are a Sherlock Holmes fan, you may recall that this is the time period when Doyle "killed" Holmes because he was sick to death of writing about him, and sick of the attention Holmes was receiving from his adoring fans. (He later resurrected Holmes.)
Graham explains all in this very readable book.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Time for a book report

I have read several books over the last few weeks but one that I really enjoyed was I Think I Love You by Allison Pearson. The title refers to the song by David Cassidy of Partridge Family and teen idol fame. The story starts out in Wales where 38-year-old Petra is going through her mother's belongings after her funeral. In her mother's closet she finds a letter that is addressed to 13-year-old Petra. She opens it to find that she and her friend Sharon had won a trip to meet David Cassidy-- 25 years ago. Her mother disapproved of Petra's teenage crush on David Cassidy and so she never gave her the letter. Only days before Petra learned of her husband's infidelity; that coupled with her mother's death and the discovery of the lost letter make Petra decide to call the magazine that sponsored the contest.
Another part of the story involves Bill who gets his journalism start by writing for the Essential David Cassidy magazine. He virtually makes up the David Cassidy that all the young teenage girls in the British Isles love. He also answers a lot of the fan mail. He is, naturally, totally embarrassed by this job, because the only people who like David Cassidy are 13-year-old girls. 25 years later Bill manages several magazines and when Petra calls to inquire about her trip to meet David Cassidy, Bill goes against the conventional wisdom that Petra must be a crazy old lady and turns it into a series of magazine articles.
I Think I Love You captures that first love feeling very well. Allison Pearson did interview David Cassidy for a magazine article a few years ago, and she was enthralled with him when she was 13 years old. She spins a great story from this material.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Mexican Diary, part 4

3/3 (David) If one was going to spend time down here it would be good to work on Spanish more than the week or two before coming down. Bird has a great workbook that looks like a HS primer. It would be good to look at words and verbs to refresh the little knowledge I have of the language.
Today I am going to see Jim at the fishing store and take the shore reels with me. I want him to do a quick assessment to see if they are worth repairing, or maybe I should purchase a new one to leave at Bird's house. Then they could use it for a quick trip of beach fishing.
(Joanne) We spent yesterday in La Ribera, doing laundry and playing with the puppies. When all the dogs are barking and running around the yard it is a pretty wild scene. The dogs will all bark at anyone who is walking past, and at horses and cows that wander by, and at rabbits and at other dogs and the list goes on. It can be a noisy place.
Dave and I went to the restaurant bar on the beach, LaCosta, and had a drink. It is an outdoor sports bar--big TV and all. Good margarita!

3/4 (David) Yesterday we went to Los Barriles to the recycling center, the pharmacy and to do some banking with Bird. Then on to the spa Buena Vista. I have never been there when it has been crowded. There were a few more vacationers there this time, but all in all I think the spa has been passed by.
I talked with Jim at Flyfishing in La Ribera about the 4 reels Smokey had given me. He suggested I throw 2 away and one spinning reel one trolling reel were usable. Clean them up and put line on them and they should be usable when I go fishing from the beach. He suggested mid-October through November as the best time to fish. August and September are great, but it is so hot that it makes fishing a chore.
I have been thinking about things in the states as our time comes to an end here. I have decided to make an appointment with Dr. Tewes in April to begin the process of knee replacement. If the insurance company says no I will look into a trip to Singapore and drop my insurance. why not live on the edge? Joanne will have to come to her own decision about insurance--pros and cons.

3/5 (David) Still windy. The wind has blown and blown the past 3 days. Huge dust clouds are going through town and across the roads when you drive. The sand of the Baja is on the move. The wind and dust have limited our adventures outdoors, so I have begun a project of cleaning and oiling the two reels that I kept; once I get them put back together. I might have line put on them, or do it myself.
We went to eat last night at La Trinidad. Smokey always comments that their food is great but too expensive. The food was great! Joanne had a fish platter, I had shrimp and Bird had a fillet mignon. The soup and salad bar were wonderful. The dinners were superbo and the strawberry cheesecake was excellent. It was perhaps one of the best dinners I have had. After the lobster on Magdalena Island and all the other food I have enjoyed here on the Baja I am afraid to see what the scale might say.
Some exercise will be in order when we return to Nebraska. For now I resolve to eat less while I am here.

(Joanne) Yesterday we called DeVonna Simpson, a Coldwall Banker realtor, and she took us to look at four properties in the area; 3 in La Ribera and 1 in Cabo Pulmo.
First was Casa Castro, a 3 bedroom home on a large corner lot with very nice landscaping. $290,000 US. A lovely home, but more than we require.
Next we looked at a row of apartments that is close to Bird's house. Four are finished, six more started. They sit on a bare city block. Each is a 1-bedroom, 1-bathroom with a small kitchen and a patio. $280,000 USD. They are new and nicely furnished, but we are not looking for a business. LasBrisas Apartments.
Next we drove to Cabo Pulmo to the National Park to look at Cabo Pulmo Casita #19, a studio casita in the Eco Resort of Cabo Beach Resorts. It is off the grid so uses solar panels and propane for electricity. It would be a good choice if you were into snorkeling and lots of outside beach activities. Short walk to the beach. But, it is very small, basically one large room with a bathroom. $115,000 USD. It is a 25-minutes drive from LaRibera. Six miles of the road is gravel and very bumpy and curvy.
Back to La Ribera to look at a fixer-upper, Casa Ramona. $35,000 USD. Two small bedrooms, 1 bath and the kitchen and living area in a separate building. I need a lot more imagination to figure out how we would fix it up!
If there would have been a property about half the size of Casa Castro and about $200,000 USD I may have been more interested.
Bird has offered to rent her upstairs to us as an apartment and that is the idea that makes the most sense. There are definite drawbacks: Eleven of them are barking right now.

3/6 (Joanne) Yesterday was too windy to do anything outside, unless you were a windsurfer. The sand and dirt were flying and the view toward Los Bariles was almost obscured by the haze of dirt in the air.
In the morning I went with Bird to buy items from the Veggie Man. He pulls up and parks at Cliff and Carol's and a lot gringos show up to buy fresh produce, eggs and tamales. We had fresh tamales for breakfast even though we thought we might never have to eat again after our supper at La Trinidad on Friday night.
The rest of the day we spent puttering around--Bird made some delicious strawberry ice cream for dessert and we had a chef salad for supper.
I am glad I brought a library book, a knitting project and a sewing project along for something to do.

3/7 (David) An eventful afternoon with Harold. We went sight seeing around the area. First we visited a cave in the arroyo at the Los Cuevas bridge. The cave was created by the floods in the arroyo during rainy season. There were nests of bees, bats and a watering hole for cattle, horses and local wildlife. Harold likes to drive around the area looking at local sights.
On to Santiago. We had visited this town on our trip last year to the hot springs. We went to a waterfall which is mostly dried up due to a lack of rain. The Mexican government has declared the sight an ecological treasure and has built guest houses and cooking areas for 8 families. Weekends and holidays are popular, but it was deserted when we visited. Beautiful place. Far off the beaten path.
Back to Santiago for dinner. Harold usually purchases a beer and when it is gone he stops at another store for a trade in. We had an excellent dinner and then visited Harold's casa--a two car garage and a camper. His garage houses a boat and SUV and a living area with table, chairs, cots, refrigerator and freezer. A real man cave! He is having an addition to the garage with a lean to constructed to cover his camper and space for outdoor dining and a cooking area.

3/8 (Joanne) Our last Baja sunrise for a while! Time to go home to Nebraska where the snow is falling again.
I am really glad we had the opportunity to visit Sol d mayo yesterday. It is west (and north?) of Santiago--an alternative tourist destination. There is a "secret" waterfall that we hiked to see. The flow of water was diminished because of low rainfall, but it was beautiful. I think I would like to stay in one of the casitas in the park.
Harold, Bird, Dave and I ate at Paloma, a restaurant in Santiago. We ate there a year ago when we were visiting. Good food. I can't say we have had a bad meal while we have been here.
Harold likes to take off and explore the back roads and arroyos so he knows lots of great stuff to go and check out. We told him several times he needs to start a tour guide service. Manly Dog Tours--look for it when you are in La Ribera!

Monday, March 14, 2011

The Mexico Diaries, part 3

In the mangroves
3/1 (David) The whale watching and fishing surpassed all expectations that I had. Gabriele picked us up and we left in his panga (fishing boat) with a 60 HP Honda motor. We went in search of grey whales and found one who spent 2-3 minutes next to our boat with Bird and Joanne scratching him furiously. He wanted to rub his skin to remove some barnacles, so our panga was convenient for him. What a thrill! Next fishing at the mouth of the Bay. We caught a cozen barracuda and eventually arrived at a small fishing town with a restaurant that cooked our catch. We filleted 2 barracuda and had one cooked in garlic and butter and the other was battered and fried. Both were excellent. Tortillas, bean, cabbage and salsa made an excellent luncheon for the 5 of us. We stayed on the island overnight and had lobster for dinner. Before dinner we went beach combing for a couple hours and found lots of sand dollars and other shells. Gabriele has 2 Honda 4-wheelers and they were great fun to drive. Very comfortable and if I were to buy a 4-wheeler I think Honda would be a good choice. Joanne's birthday? one to remember!

(Joanne) Yes, it is a birthday to remember! We had a great breakfast at our motel and then went a few blocks to Gabriele's home where we parked our vehicles and climbed into the panga. G drove to the launching spot and we were on our way. First spot on the tour was the mangroves where thousands of birds were perched. Then we were off to check out bird island where thousands more birds sat and watched us go by. We saw cranes and egrets close to shore, and pelicans, cormorants, gulls and loons out on the water.
As we got closer to the mouth of the bay we saw whales spouting, and several more tour boats and pangas. We could see whales breaching the water and their tails slapping. G moved the boat a few times to get closer. As we moved through the water, all of us looking ahead, we heard a spouting whale right behind us. G cut the engine and the whale swam up to the side of the boat where we could touch her and she could scratch herself. We put our hands in her mouth, scratched her back and looked into her blow hole. I think awesome is the word I would use to describe the experience. G has a low whistle which we think helped keep her around for so long. She pushed the boat and came up under us and that was pretty exciting as well. The other tour boats came over to check it out, G kissed the whale, and then she was gone. Wow!
Next we put our fishing lines in the water and at the second spot we tried we were successful. All four of us hooked barracuda at the same time, keeping G very busy. We caught about 20 fish before going in. Smokey has a large barracuda on his line and a sea lion tried to take it. Actually the sea lion took off a big bite! The sea lion followed us after that, looking for more lunch.
Gabriele holding the barracuda taken from a sea lion

When we got to Magdalena city we stopped for lunch at Miramar restaurant where 2 of our barracuda were filleted and cooked for us. Very tasty!
The island was our destination for the evening. G went to prepare the beach house for our overnight stay while we finished our late lunch. We walked to the house and were pleasantly surprised. It was just right for our stay. Two ATV quads provided entertainment and transportation to the Pacific side of the island where we picked up shells and sand dollars and walked on the beach. It is a beautiful place. (But I do want to take a big trash bag and pick up litter next time!)
Beach house on Magdalena Island

Slept well after our lobster dinner. We also had ceviche made from our barracuda. Delicious! Sunrise found us on the front porch enjoying our coffee and watching whales and a sea lion. Perfect.
 G came and picked us up for a panga ride back. We saw a "feeding frenzy" on the bay as the pelicans went for sardina!

3/2 (David) Sunrise on Magdalena Bay was picturesque. We drank coffee, listened and watched for whales and watched for the sun. It broke the horizon and was fully visible within a minute. I don't recall the sunrise occurring that quickly in Seward. The whales never disappoint us. We watched them from the porch of G's home on the island. They were always there spouting and swimming the surface.
Smokey left for San Diego when we returned to Constitution as he has doctor's appointments at the VA Hospital. They are planning to put radioactive beads in his prostate to stop the cancer which is a pretty aggressive treatment. My friend Jimmy had the procedure done on his liver cancer but not successfully. Hope and pray that Smokey has better results.
The drive home was long but uneventful. Joanne drove from C. Constitution to La Paz and I drove from La Paz to La Ribera. We were all pretty worn out and after a chef's salad and a couple Modelo Lights we went to bed. Joanne reads before going to sleep. Pillow prop up her head and a small flashlight under her chin--that's the last sight I have before going to sleep.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

More Mexican Diary entries

2/26 (David) We met Harold, the local fishing guru. He loves to fish and enjoys telling stories about his exploits both on the sea and on the land. I think he could give a great tour of lots of interesting places on the Baja. He also knows a lot about the night life on the Baja. Joanne and Bird are working on the Animales y amigos fundraiser for Saturday, so Smokey and I worked on projects at Casa Azul. We ran the wire for his internet hook-up and fixed a screen door for the main room. Today we will pack for our trip to San Carlos where I am sure we will have a great time and hopefully will catch fish and see whales. I am in charge of the evening meal, so I plan to find the Super Pollo truck and purchase chicken dinners. Note: Bird cheats at Mexican Train.
(Joanne) It has been "Arts & Crafts" time for me as I have been working on decorating 2 large donation jars for the animal rescue group. Bird is very active in rescuing dogs, and the group has 2 events this weekend, a garage sale on Saturday morning and a vaccination clinic on Sunday morning. Right after the clinic ends we are heading for San Carlos, a five hour drive.
Today there is a road race involving cars and motorcycles that will be going through town. We may go check it out, but I think we will be able to hear it from the house. I have been able to check email every day. The weather at home sounds awful--ice and snow. Glad we are here!

2/27 (David) I am not sure that an ATV is the vehicle for me. I practiced on Bird's 4-wheeler for 20 minutes and then Joanne and I went for a drive around town. I haven't driven an ATV before, but I did have a motorcycle in the 70s. Not sure I could take more than 25-30 minutes on one as it is stressful on my hips and knees. The roads and intersections won't allow much more than 15-20 mph, so a wild ride at 40 - 50 with the wind blowing through your hair was out of the question.
No Super Pollo--the bus never arrived, so probably will order pizza and /or spaghetti from a local place. I would have to find a hobby or project if I were down here longer than a week or two as I feel an urge to accomplish something. Buying an 8-pack of Modelo and having a few beers doesn't qualify as a major project--although quite enjoyable. We will have to plan better for next week since Smokey will be in San Diego. I will have time on my hands to get some adventures planned and completed.

(Joanne) The big garage sale fund raising event was quite successful from the fund raising aspect. It was held at a home that is Se Vende (For Sale) in La Ribera. I heard $500,000 to $600,000 as the asking price. It is a beautiful 2-story, 5 bedroom, 5 bathroom home on 4 lots. Gorgeous patios and gardens. That started a conversation with Bird about buying property here, which ended with an offer by her to rent us their upstairs apartment.

2/28 (David) Happy birthday Joanne! I hope you have a great day whale watching, fishing, and staying on Magdalena Island over night. We had a long drive over mountains and desert to get to our destination. The trip from La Ribera to La Paz was less than 2 hours, but was mostly through mountain passes and up and down the cliffs. From La Paz to Constitution it was a straight shot over high plains down to the Pacific coast. We arrived in San Carlos at about 6:30 p.m. and found our hotel, a small establishment with 5 rooms to rent. The owner offered to cook us dinner and prepare huevos rancheros for breakfast. Our trip to the island will begin at 8 a.m. The town of San Carlos has grown considerably since Smokey and Bird were last here, 7,000. Lots of poverty with people living in 12 x 12 plywood shacks, but it seems each has a satellite dish on it. Our guide for today is Gabriele, and he has 2 boats and will be taking us in his smaller one, a 16 foot panga. He seems quite the businessman. Vanamous compadres!

(Joanne) I will celebrate my 62nd birthday with a boat trip/fishing expedition/whale watching adventure. We drove all afternoon to get to San Carolos where Bird and Smokey have a friend with a boat. We didn't leave until after 1:00 p.m. because Bird helped run an animal vaccination clinic in the morning. Dave got a good dose of Mexican driving, and did a good job. Our hotel is the Villa Isabella. It is very clean and well-maintained. The proprieter is a young woman who is helped by a cook and security guard. We ate a great chicken dinner for our supper. Bird and Smokey's friend Gabriele is a very personable young man. He is Jehovah Witness, very clean cut and polite. He and his wife have a beautiful home in the midst of a lot of poverty. Lots of hurricane damage has been repaired (from 2009) but there is more to fix.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

The Mexico Diaries

We spent 2 weeks in Mexico, Feb. 22 through March 8. While we were there Dave and I wrote in a journal almost every day. Here are some excerpts:
2/23 (Joanne) Here we are "home" in LaRibera with Bird and Smokey. We had a good trip. At the Houston Airport, "George Bush Intergalactic" as our pilot called it, we got to ride from the gate in terminal C to the gate in terminal E. The driver saw us walking, stopped and asked us where we needed to go. I think we are now officially old people--or at least we look like them. Bird picked us up at the airport, and off we went for our first fish taco of the trip, at a little stand half a mile from the airport. There are several changes at Casa Azul: a "cool pool" and a cistern, graveled patio areas (helps keep sand out of the house), a coffee pot in the guest quarters and new dogs, to name a few. The trees are growing, flowers look beautiful and the tangerines we just picked are tasty!
(David) Sunrise on the Sea of Cortez! What a great sight. I made coffee this a.m. and we are enjoying the view. The weather? Looks to be a great day and we will be going to Los Barriles. Last year we went once for dinner and entertainment by Jeanetti Spagetti, the singer. Bird and Smokey are planning a fishing trip on the Pacific side of the Baja. Also some whale watching is a good possibility. I've seen whales from a distance both times I've been here, but now a chance to get up close--sounds great but a little scary. Hopefully we will get lots of photo ops. It is easy to see why Smokey and Bird love it here. The views are great, and their home is so wonderful. The "guest house" where we stay is an upstairs apartment which I could be happy living in. Not a lot of room, yet it is so comfortable and has such great possibilities.

2/24 (David) Awoke to the sound of dogs defending the casa. Not sure what enemy, foreign or domestic was posing a threat to the casa, but we were well defended. Sight-seeing in Los Barriles was fun and we had an excellent lunch of chili rellenos. Lots fo the resorts up on the East Cape are struggling. The Ranchero Buena Vista has closed since we were here a year ago. It was a beautiful resort and I am saddened by the lose of places like it. The beach, pool, and apartments are not what the typical tourist is looking for today. The local worker earning 80 pesos per day ($7) cannot afford to stay there and American tourists are searching for arcades, waterparks, and high speed internet at their resorts of choice. We visited a veterinarian's office and a bakery on the way back from Los Barriles. Interesting people--Smokey and Bird really know lots of local people. They try to help local businesses and quality of life issues quite a bit. They are good people.
(Joanne) We stayed up late (after 10:00 p.m.!) last night, playing the domino game "Mexican Train." It is a fun, easy game to play; Bird and Smokey taught it to us last year. We will probably play the card game "Golf" a few times while are are here also. We enjoyed our lu nch and sightseeing in Los Barilles yesterday. I bought a silver bracelet and we did a quick look around a real estate office where Bird's friend Pam works. We toy with the idea of spending more time here, but we have a good set-up staying with Bird and Smokey, so we don't need to buy a house! But it is still fun to think about it :) The usual five dogs are here: Amiga, Blanca, Chui, Nubi and Dori. Also present: Maggie and her four puppies. Maggie was spayed yesterday and Bird may have a home lined up for her on another home for one of the puppies, so 3 to go!

2/25 (David) Yesterday Smokey taught me how to make fishing rigs for deep sea fishing. I have never fixed up rigs for ocean fishing, so it was interesting and I produced several. Let's see if they work on our fishing trip.  I went to a fishing tackle store yesterday and met Jim, the owner of the shop. He is in a wheelchair and is a very soft spoken, articulate man. He was very interesting and knowledgeable about his craft. He asked if we would give him a report on fish caught and equipment used when we return from San Carlos. Smokey is going on to San Diego after the fishing trip, so I look forward to going to visit with Jim again.
(Joanne) We had really windy weather here yesterday which postponed our plan of taking the dogs to the beach. Instead we worked on a project for Amigos de Animales, Bird's group that rescues stray dogs and cats. They are holding a garage/bake sale this Saturday. Bird and I took some donations over to Betty, who will price everything. I have not seen stray cats in La Ribera, just lots of stray dogs. Now I know why; they are all living at Betty's casa--13 or so. Bird and I returned Maggie to the vet in Las Cuevas because she pulled out some of her stitches from her neutering surgery. We will have to go get her this morning--good thing too because her puppies miss her. I went with Bird to Happy Hour (Thursday version) and met several of her friends, some of whom I had met on previous trips. Bird mentioned that we will be celebrating our birthdays and that she will be 16 next Leap Year. I believe a "Sweet 16" party is already in the planning stages!