Senor and Linda Lou have been in Pueblo Alamos, Sonora, Mexico for 8 years. Okay, okay, now it's been 9 years.
Every day brings a new discovery.
They are still working on the casa............Senor says, it won't be long.........but Linda Lou says, it won't be long until what..............stay tuned to find out what's next.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

The Christmas Feast

Morning photos.........
It is so pretty, but it was very cold here last night and this morning...we need to get our one little fireplace working. We have discovered someone roofed it over, years ago, and we are thinking that we may need to get up there and figure out how to unroof it and light it in the mornings.....
Last night it snowed in Nogales, of course that is quite a distance from us, but we are getting some of the cold weather coming down from there. Look at the fog following the hillside!

Over a week ago, a neighbor asked what we were doing for Christmas Day and I told her that we were going to put a little turkey on our rotisserie spit......the rest is a blur........suddenly 16 people were getting together at my neighbor's casa and we were rotisserie spitting not one little turkey, but two big turkeys.
On Christmas Eve, we got a good brine going and dropped them in........esmeralda is in the bucket with the green bowl and fernando is in the bucket with the blue bowl...............I wish I had a better story, like we went to this turkey ranch and picked out two live turkeys with those names, but I named them myself and we got them at the frozen section of the market in Navajoa, already wrapped and ready to take home.....

So, we let them soak in the brine for over ten hours and then, on Christmas Day, we put them on the spit around noon.


Bill had a local iron worker make the metal plates to hold the rotisserie. The motor for it is attached to the end of the spit to Bill's left.


Once esmeralda and fernando were on the spit and rotating, Bill covered them with the wire mesh and then, with aluminum foil. I did not have time to photograph that because we had to run quickly up the street to an open house and when the wind started blowing real hard, we had to run quickly back to make certain the aluminum foil had not blown away. The foil was still there, but things just did not look right. Bill removed the foil and we stood there and watched as the spit begin to sink lower and lower to the grill. Before we could do anything, the spit bent and broke, depositing the turkeys right on the grill, where Bill proceeded to stoke the fire and roast the turkeys...........
We took the turkeys to our neighbors, where each couple chipped in to cover the cost of them and proceeded to have a huge feast of dressings and gravies and salads and condiments and potatoes and desserts and the best turkey we have ever had!
It was a very special Christmas feast!




Over a week ago

Monday, December 22, 2008

Friday Night's Christmas Party

Good Morning! Here is the sunrise on the 19th, the morning of the Christmas Party. Below, the sun is weaving a magic carpet on the hillsides.

I was very busy on Friday, getting ready for the Christmas Party, Cookies was no help to me at all.....while ashes catnapped in preparation for a wild night of partying........
cookies was busy bird watching.........
when evening came, we plugged in the lights .........








things looked very festive.................


we had chicken going on the grill and a fresh bowl of catfood ready.................


the tree was covered in white lights and birds......................


the chest top was covered in special decorations...................a framed bejeweled tree from my sister.....................

a lovely little metal tree that belonged to my mothers' brother, which I have turned into a gumdrop tree.........................


last year's Santa photo.........................

the laptop was playing home alone......................


while the nutcracker watched over the bowl of mandarins.......................


candles glowed everywhere.................


while another nutcracker looked on...................................

some of our favorite decorations hung from the mirror.......................

it was a lovely party......the four of us had a nice evening.............feliz navidad!















Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Christmas Party

Hola! Hola! Bill is correcto......I know nothing about the water system. When I made my post, I thought I finally understood it, but I guess I just don't.
All I really know is we have water and it is not hot.......
now on to more important things...one thing I do know about is how to give a good Christmas party..................
For 22 years in Carnation, we had a Christmas Party on the Friday before Christmas. We spent days and days in preparation.....shopping, making invitations, making decorations, decorating, cleaning, cooking.............the list goes on and on....................several years we had about 65 to 75 adults and about 30 to 40 kids. Other years there were less people. It was always great, great fun!
In recent years some of the younger kids who used to come years ago, were returning to the party as adults. They said they always had fond memories of 'The Christmas Party'.

Some of the preparation actually begins with our family trip to the Mt Baker/Snoqualmie Forest for the 16 1/2 foot noble fir tree. This used to be a wonderful, safe part of our Christmas experience, until we saw a truck almost go over the edge of the mountain, and a family trying to get up the mountain in their buick. Their car stalled and they all piled out, wearing their church clothes; little girls in mary janes, no coat on the grandmother or mother, dad in a suit..........the forest service had to tow them out and back down the mountain. There came to be so many people ill prepared to be up in the mountains (sorry! but most of them had California plates), we quit going up into the forest and for the last 6 years, we cut our tree at the Holiday Mountain Tree Farm, which is up abut 1,500' in the foothills near North Bend. Alot of hiking was involved in finding the right tree and then cutting and hauling it back to the car.
In the photo below, you can see the tree has been cut and put on top of the vehicle we had at that time.


Once home, we would take the tree inside, after cutting it to the 16 1/2 foot height, and lay the upper third of it on a chair. Then we would begin the lights and decorations. Bill would string over 6,000 tiny white lights and the kids and I would begin to hang the first of over 1,000 decorations. Once the upper third was finished, we would raise the tree, with its trunk in a bucket, and tie it off with fishing line to strategic points on the bannister railing and the window sill. Then over the process of a week, we would finish off the lower third of the tree, working whenever we could. As the years went by, KD began to help string the lights and it was Ian's job to get the Nutcrackers on the high windowsills.

I don't know how to rotate a photo so you will just have to rotate your head to see the tree below. Every tree was different, sometimes very bushy and sometimes, very thin, like last year's tree below. But, always beautiful, always the 'wild christmas tree'..............


Once the tree was completed, we began getting ready for the party.
And, it was a major production. Both inside and out.
Ian and Harrison strung both white and colored lights around the ponds and into the trees, creating clever scenes and light displays. Some years they would hang colored lights on the deck above the lower level of the house.
The night of the party they would fill the luminarias with sand and candles and light them going all the way up the driveway. The front deck entry was filled with gnarly willow and birch, covered in tiny white lights, creating a beautiful entrance to the house.

The three levels of the house were cleaned and decorated.
On the main level, Christmas dishes and serving plates were brought out. The cd's were ready to play. The ribbons and wreaths were in their places. My mother's hand painted balls were in the big clear Italian vase, my father's hand carved santa men were on the shelves.
The fire was laid, ready to be lit.
Upstairs, the huge french antique bed was covered in colored quilts and would be home to coats and hats and gloves, which KD and Deanna and Lisa would gather as they met guests at the door.
The lower level was set up with arts and crafts for the kids and the video, Home Alone One, was ready to go. The sign up sheet for the pool table was posted on the downstairs wall, and when the kids were much younger, the sitters had their instructions on how to keep the kids occupied downstairs with card making, snow globe creations and making tree decorations.
Upstairs, the adults feasted on pot luck items brought by everyone to share, listened to christmas music and chatted the night away. Many of us had not seen each other since last year's party. Kids came upstairs to see parents, grabbed plates of food and mounds of cookies and peppermints and chocolates and headed back down to watch Home Alone Two.

Around 9pm, Bill and the boys, who were Ian and his buddies, went outside to light the bonfire. Once it was going strong, Ian and Harrison would hand out the Christmas carol sheets and flashlights to everyone as they donned their coats and hats and gloves and made their way to the fire. Once we were all gathered around, we began to sing. It was magical.......
really, really cool, all those christmas parties...always something going on, too...there was the year laura fell through the deck and was dangling in the air, the year brother john fell in the pond, the year manch and his buddies played get the flag and climbed to the top of the huge cedar trees, the year i forgot i had put a big ham in the oven and forgot to turn the oven on and found the ham the next day, the time gernot asked if we had any music other than christmas music, the time eric started to finally lead the carols himself and not just listen, the time hubertus stayed to hear us sing oh tannenbaum in german just for him, the time one of the kids brought a trumpet to play during the carols (who was that?), the time mary brought her white bird on her shoulder, the time hillary came with her boyfriend, soon to be husband and she used to be one of the little kids who then became a sitter and then became all grown up, the year we kept blowing fuses on the tree and one minute it was dark and the next it was light, the year only half of the tree would light, the year the power was out for 11 days and it came on the day of the party, the shrimp molly always brought, the beautiful champagne and wine glasses barbara gave us for the party, making sure i had all the pistachios steve could eat.............i could go on and on..............

So, tomorrow night is the Friday before Christmas, and it is the night of the Christmas Party.
I guess it will just be the 4 of us, Bill and me, and Cookies and Ashes.
If you are reading this and you were at the Christmas Party in the past, we want you to know that it was truly the most wonderful time of the year. We miss you all very much, especially this time of the year.
We will start a little bonfire tomorrow night and sing a few carols and we will think of all of you and all of the wonderful Christmas parties we shared!!!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

My turn....

We've been very busy with the casa, turkey week in Colorado, returning to more casa work and now the holidays (4 parties in 3 days last weekend!...what do you guys think we all are: 20 years old??). Not enough time to post! Enough bitching. Here it is ready or not.

So by now you know I am married to a VERY (MUCHO MUY!!) IMPORTANTE PERSONA! Hand delivered invite to the Mayor's (also referred to as La Presedenta) for the Biggest event of the year here. Well deserved for all of her volunteer work for very important occassions; I am very PROUD of her! But that didnt stop me from addressing her in ROYAL terms for the days leading to the event; I am lucky she let me tag along. The Mayor was most gracious and the event was incredible, actually a celebration of the diversity of cultures here. When was the last time a Catholic mass was celebrated at the same tame and in conjunction with an indiginous celebration with Deer Dancers and the Mayo efigy along side the Virgin de Gaudaloupe?

I must now turn my attention to a technical correction and set the record straight. As you know, my beloved refers to me with particular spanish nick name. Knowledge levels are relative. I do not know everything, just some things mi esposa does not know. As wonderful as she is, some things are not her forte but I have some success with: math, calculations IN THE HEAD, directions/knowing the compass points and where they are at any given time and place (or simply; how to get back where we came from (like HOME)).

Example: I have explained the water system to Linda several times. It is not very complicated: water comes to the house from the street and goes to the roof top tinaco. We can divert it to fill our below ground cistern where we use a pump for the gray water in the cistern for the plants and washing clothes. The tinaco is clean water; the cistern is gray water. Simple, right? We dont even have HOT water yet to make things confusing. Just cold. Clean on the roof; gray in the ground. two pipes. No mas.

My MUY IMPORTANTE esposa has never understood it. After several attempts to explain it; nada. Each time her eyes glaze over more rapidly than the last explanation. We reached an agreement: I will deal with the water system and she will do other muy importante things. This is by no means a criticism; there is no way I could begin to do many of the things she can do. I am sure we are not alone is this aspect of our relationship. I merely provide this background to help exlain her nickname for me; it is as much a reflection on our relative strengths and weaknesses than an a priori reality.

So if you actually are trying to discern the mechanics of our water system, please disregard Linda's comment that water is pumped from the tinaco to the cistern. My eyes rolled when I read that. I love her dearly, but that doesnt change the fact that there is no pump at the tinaco (very beneficial during power failures as well). That concludes the Technical Bulletin portion of this post.

Felice Navidad a ustedes todo! (<-- survival espanol; es muy bueno, mi Professor Violeta?)

New Tinnaco

This is the new tinnaco on the roof.
It holds 300 gallons of water that have come from the city first, into the cistern. From there, the water is pumped up into the tinnaco. The old small white tinnaco held about a third of that. The old tinnaco will eventually be on the north end of the casa (in the photo, that is farther to the right) and will be used for the guest room. The new big one will be moved farther south and will supply the rest of the casa. This is the water for the bathrooms and laundry and will also supply the kitchen ..........which we do not have........yet.

We chose black in the hopes that during the summer, it will help to heat up the water and we will not have to use the water heater...... which we do not have.............. yet.

So, I refuse to walk near the new tinnaco. It is, in my opinion, perched somewhat precariously on the edge of the roof, supported by the old roof and a few 1x1's.............BUT, senor says it is perfectly safe and besides.........i will only fill it one third full and the roof should hold that just fine, he says...........

Yesterday we went to Navajoa and we were gone most of the morning. When we came back the new tinnaco was overflowing and water was running through the yard, and out the cannali spouts and was all over the hilton garden room............someone had forgotten to turn off the water hose HE was using to fill the tinnaco one third full......................so now the tinnaco is completely filled to the brim. I am walking way out in the yard to get around it. Someone will need to take a very, very long cold shower today to get rid of some of that water.............it won't be me.

In the photo below you can see the trench that has been dug for the new portal.

The trench will be the edge of the portal. The holes for the new columns that will support the trench are over two feet deep.
Bill has been busy leveling the entire casa. He has picked a mid or central point inside the casa and with his lazer level, he has measured four feet all around and inside the casa. There are four foot markers on trees out in the yard, on the fence posts and outside of the casa, and there are four foot markers all over the inside of the casa. So, he now has a very good idea of high four feet is everywhere, based upon the central point inside.............I think that should make sense, but don't worry, the ceiling will be higher than four feet. I don't understand the significance of four feet, but he does.........


In the photo below, you can see we have a new lamp post. We cut down the huge bushy tree that was there. We plan to plant something else there, something that will grow a little smaller. The night after cutting down and removing the tree we noticed we can see the Mirador. Right now, the flag pole at the Mirador is covered with a huge lighted metal Christmas tree. It is beautiful and we can see it from the garden room.

Bill is still making the concrete columns that will support the huge cement beams that will support the roof. Below you can see his techniques for keeping the concrete from falling back out onto the floor. He is also researching fireplaces and is basing his design on a Rumford masonry fireplace. The Rumford design fireplace is also known as a Russian or Finnish fireplace. He has printed out about 50 internet pages on this design and as the fireplace begins to look more like a fireplace, I'll let you know.




So, now you are as much up to date on the casa as I am.
Later this afternoon, I will take some photos of the Christmas decorating I have been doing.
If you recall, we are used to decorating a 16 1/2 foot tall noble fir, with over 6,000 tiny white lights and over 1,000 decorations...........scaling down to a 4' norfolk pine is a real challenge............



Sunday, December 14, 2008

Guadalupe Feast Photos

beautiful full moon night at the guadalupe feast..................

Below is the small chapel in the garden of the mayor's casa. A table has been set up in front where the priest will give mass.

Inside the chapel, the painting of Guadalupe is at the altar .

Below Mayo dancers lead the procession to the altar where mass will be performed.




The garden is a huge Ushape, with many tables and chairs placed under a long black net covered roof. The garden is approximately 50 yards wide and 100 yards long. Barrels were arranged around the perimeters and huge fires were blazing in them. A great place to warm your hands or to cook ears of corn on sticks. But not great for digital photography. The air was slighty hazy.


It is hard to see it in these photos, but there is a castille ( wooden and metal structure) about 50 feet high, in the center of the scene. It would later be set on fire.



Below, the castille has been set on fire. It was very mechanical. The fireworks began at the bottom, and at a certain time, spokes and springs would come alive and set off the next round of fireworks. Wheels would suddenly poke out of the castille and begin spinning, tossing firework sprays into the crowd (who didn't seem to mind a bit). The whole time the castille went off, a man stood beside it, throwing huge firebombs into the sky. Their flaming trails would come crashing down onto the net covering above the seating area and into the garden. We seemed to be the only nervous people, and we did secretly plan an escape route in case things went bad. The crowd roared and roared for more, they love their fireworks here in Mexico!






Above, the castille seems to have moving arms that are spraying fireworks and flames and sparks. If you have ever seen Zozobra burn in New Mexico, this was very similar, but on a smaller scale and without the groaning sounds.....





Above, the fire is in the middle of the castille and soon mechanical branches will fall horizontally and begin to spin and burn, setting off the upper third.








The photo above shows the trail of light (directly over the onlookers heads) behind a flaming rocket that shoots through the garden. A wire is attached somewhere at each long end of the garden. It is about 8 feet above the ground and about a hundred yards long. One person at one end lights a rocket and it shoots along the wire to the opposite end, where a person lights and shoots a new one right back. The kids absolutely love this. They all run from one end of the garden to the other...UNDER THE ROCKET FLAME!!! All the while, the sparks and pieces of flames and fire are dropping down on them as they run. I thought my heart would stop, but not only did the kids love it, the parents screamed and clapped and could hardly stay in their seats.

Below, the tip of the castille has begun to burn, setting off other flames that ran the whole length and width of the garden and everything dripped fire. It literally rained white fire for ten minutes.................. it was a little scary but it was absolutely beautiful.






Below, you can see the fire of the rocket as it speeds by at a very fast pace. Bill took this shot by pressing the shutter seconds before the rocket sped by in front of us.





I'm including the shot below because it is how I felt after all the fireworks, dizzy and unfocused....





Below, more dancing by Mayo Indians.









the food was wonderful, lots of tamales, carne asado and the standard drink of cornstarch and cocoa and spices........for which I can't remember the name...........someone will tell us, it starts with a K, I believe. When it is served, it is piping hot and as it cools, it jells and becomes really thick and a little hard to swallow, but very spicy and tasty.
We had a wonderful time and made it till 11pm........and slept till 8:30 on Saturday.
Last night we went and heard several wonderful musicians perform at the Casa Maria Felix. It was such a wonderful setting, a very beautiful hotel with an atmosphere that is romantic, but very comfortable and casual. You should come for a visit and stay there......
This morning I made taffy, but could not get it to pull.............a friend from down the street came up to help with a second batch and we still could not get it to pull........... I think it is because we had mucho chipichipi in the night and it was very cool and humid this morning. So....I turned the taffy into a confection for dropping into your tea or coffee...tried again and got a hard crytalized candy for treats......so, no Christmas taffy yet................we have our tree............a living, potted 4' norfolk pine..............
We are on our way to a Mexican family baptism for their son............i'll show you the tree and the new tinnaco that is on the roof in the next posts.................






























Friday, December 12, 2008

Tonight

the morning sunrise
The day before yesterday we came home from a nice walk and found the card below in our yard, near the gate. After getting the dictionary and translating the words I did not know, it looked like an invitation to the Feast of Our Lady Of Guadalupe, at KM 48, at the home of the Acuna family. The only thing at KM 48 is the casa of the mayor of Alamos.
I was not sure what to think, so I headed up to the Casa de la Cultura, where I knew I could probably find someone who would know more about it..................




I sat down with a Mexican friend, who actually was the person who delivered the invitation to my casa.

yes, she said............ it is an invitation to one of the largest nights of feasts and dancing and music and fireworks in alamos.

why did i get invited, i asked her......because of your work at DIF and because of your work with the Festival de Calaca...... the mayor wants to show her appreciation.

how important is it that i go, i asked her...muy, muy importante, she said, you will be there and your esposo, too, of course ............only ten americans have been invited......many, many Mexicans and indigenous Indians will be there.

do i take a gift....no.

what do i wear........every piece of warm clothing you own....it is all outside, the feast, the Mayo Indian dancing, mass is in the garden......... all outside.

what do i call the mayor (i have been introduced to her before with her first name).........by her first name, of course.

how long do i stay....well, it lasts until 8am the following morning....my friend and i will leave around 1am.

can i bring my camera...........of course.

So, that is where we are off to for the night or at least part of it.

Good Grief! we go to bed at 7:30.

We will miss the wonderful TGIF that the foreign community will host tonight so people can come together and meet the newcomers to Alamos and renew friendships with other residents they may not have seen since last year. We will plan to attend the next one.


I am very excited to go to this celebration and feel very, very fortunate to have been invited. I will try and return with some wonderful photos to share.

But, first, I have to go through the winter clothing bag. It's a really small plastic bag.....I know I have a hat and gloves and hopefully, a jacket of some sort........Bill has a couple of pairs of wool socks............we did not know the temperature would get down to 40 degrees here, and lower, like it did last night.
But, I feel like we are about to experience something that may be a once in a lifetime opportunity.........i just hope i can stay awake......

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

It's Beginning to Feel alot like Christmas

Here is the beautiful sight we came home to this last week...........hillside upon hillside, covered with flowering amapa trees. It is breathtaking, so colorful, it's gorgeous................so gorgeous that I have decided to show you five photos worth!!!










Many of the deciduous trees have lost, or are losing their leaves, and the cactus are more exposed, looking like tall green men reaching their arms out to the hills. I think we have finally moved into the autumn season here. The grass is turning brown, trees are getting bare, and the the days are a little overcast, breezy and some light sprinkling falls once in awhile.
Our border crossing was absolutely uneventful. No one stopped us leaving the US, no one stopped us going into Mexico at the Nogales Mariposa crossing, and no one stopped us at the KM21 crossing either. The federales waved us through their checkpoints and that was that.
Now, back home for a week, Bill is working on the casa, and I have been busy on the Glass Pond Studio website and etsy shop...................and baking cookies. I have baked cookies for a week, and have decided that it is a kind of therapy for me.
I had a meltdown after leaving Colorado. It was wonderful to be there for Thanksgiving with our kids, but the thought of not being together for the first time for Christmas was pretty powerful. I always feel better after a meltdown, but once we got to Alamos, I had another and then, another. So, I started baking cookies and well, I'm doing good now...... I can handle Christmas..... I know it.
In all, I have baked 16 dozen cookies since we have returned...mexican wedding cookies, lime zest drop cookies, chocolate pecan merinque kisses, pecan shortbread cookies, gingerbread cookies, sugar cookies......
Yesterday, I boxed up cookies in small take out boxes that I found at Super Tito's Market and then, went for a walk. I gave cookies to alot of mexicans and foreigners that I have come to know....................it felt really good.
Last night I went to a Christmas carol rehearsal. A group of people will rehearse again next week and then, on December 21st, we will go around town, singing carols. I did not know if I could handle that because singing carols with many friends and neighbors has always been a huge part of our Christmas back in Washington. I was actually prepared to have a meltdown and leave the rehearsal, but guess what? I loved it!
Today, I am thinking about a tree. I refuse to decorate a palm tree, and I am planning to unpack a few boxes of decorations, just to take a look. I also want to go to the alameda, where a man was selling all kinds of nuts out of a wheelbarrow. I think I will make some white chocolate cookies filled with dried jicama blossoms and pecans........doesn't that sound good?
It's beginning to feel alot like Christmas............